The trend of adult children becoming caregivers for their parents is one of the most widespread in American society. It is a tough experience for those who suddenly realize that it is time to shift roles with their parents and take care of them. Aging is one of the greatest human worries because it manifests the fear of death, and watching loved ones get old is disturbing for many people. It can cause a certain level of anxiety stress and result in emotional burnout. However, representation of the trend has various forms in different countries, and this article analyzes the trend’s global dynamics, common biases, views parental caregiving from sociological perspectives, and describes attempting responses to the negative impacts.
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Comparing the representation of the trend in the US and Russia, there are certain similarities and disparities. In Russia, people have to provide their parents with all the support and help they may need when they are not as strong and healthy. In this way, the norms are similar to the American, although there are some distinctions. On the territories of the post-USSR countries, it was and still is accustomed for adult children to live with their parents (Saporovskaia et al., 2021). Therefore, people are prepared for the role of a family caregiver from a young age and adapt to it more easily (Meduza, 2018). However, there are several variables and disparities which influence that trend. For instance, the relationship between the two sides can be poor and intense, or children may live far away from their parents and be unable to take care of them physically. In addition, people have their duties and responsibilities, such as children and jobs, which significantly complicates the process of the help to their loved ones.
Moreover, becoming a caregiver also influences other social institutions, particularly employment. Especially it is challenging for the black community since, in compassion to the traditional white familial trend, they have a deeper and stronger attachment to their community and family relations. Thus, some people have to quit their jobs to care for their elderly parents, and it influences employment primarily in the marginalized fraction (Peterson, 2021).
Those factors may eventually lead to the negative impact of the trend on modern families. Usually, it is emotionally hard to watch people who for many years were the solid and dominant figures in children’s life experiencing the decline in mental and physical abilities (Gardiner, 2019). Thus, it affects the relationship inside the modern family because of all the stress, and tension people can become irritated, aggressive, exhausted, and translate it on their children.
To better understand the dynamics of the trend, there are three helpful sociological theories: conflict, functionalist and symbolic. From the conflict perspective in Russian culture, caring for the elderly is a part of living in an extended family since this type is significantly widespread in the area (Pilkauskas & Cross, 2018). In the US, for instance, the care for parents is more struggling because older adults tend to be more independent and live on their own, so it can be stressful for children to take this responsibility and sacrifice their freedom.
Considering the trend from the functionalist perspective, there are positive outcomes such as the stimulus of close relationships among the family members and support and care about one another. Families learn how to be flexible in challenging situations and work together to overcome the obstacles, which may create the pattern of the specific attitude within the family. In addition, when family members care for their elderly and provide them with medical assistance, there are lower chances of them appearing in the nursing home. It prevents older people from neglecting and positively affects social institution such as healthcare and the economy since there are fewer elderly that needs help and care from the government.
The symbolic interactionist theory implies that people, through communication, define the meaning of their social connections and fill them with certain senses depending on the status of relationships (Popular theories of sociology, 2022). Families define themselves and the character of their relationship with the members based on verbal and non-verbal communication. Thus, some families are closer and loving, and in some, their members are distant and autonomous, for example. Depending on the interaction level between the relatives and their ability to build a connection, the definition of the forms evolves with time. However, there are still some biases about the familial trend. The most common is that caregiving for parents will inevitably become children’s burden when their loved ones start to get completely weak and helpless. I as well have a bias regarding the familial trend, which refers to the need to neglect my other duties and sacrifice my career or education to care for my aging parents.
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Value of Sociology
Sociological theories and perspectives can help eliminate several social biases regarding familial trends. Viewing the caregiving from the symbolic theory allows us to see it not as a burden but as a logical outcome of the close interactions between the children and the parents (Stephens, 2021). Therefore, a healthy atmosphere in the family can demonstrate the close relationships between the children and parents. In turn, conflict and functionalist perspectives may challenge the general assumptions by analyzing the reasons and causes that influence the development of the family trend. The sociological perspectives allow dealing with the fear of aging and attract attention to the struggles of adult children with multiple responsibilities (Emoha Elder Care, 2021). Moreover, those theories help address the negative impacts of the trend that can be represented by the excessive amount of pressure for adult children, physiological exhausting, and psychological struggles.
The government has developed special programs to support caretakers with financial and human resources to respond to negative impacts. Another of the most effective implications is the support groups for adults who care for their older parents (Family caregiving, 2022). Since caregiving can be emotionally exhausting and enormously affect mental health, that can result in burnout and difficulties in other areas of life such as work and the upbringing of children. Thus, I would suggest a special educational program for the regular people who had to become caretakers. The program includes all the necessary knowledge and practice to successfully deal with the possible struggles: studying the basics of caregiving, psychological support, financial aids, personal approach, and treatment suggestions. Specialists will help realize parents’ mortality, introduce them to the community of people with similar struggles, and assist in making the first steps towards the new responsibilities. This response is very likely to be successful because it helps prevent stress and burnout caused by caregiving, creates a clear plan of action, and integrates it into the usual lifestyle with minimum losses.
Overall, the familial trend of caregiving might differ depending on the culture, the country, and the specific dynamic of each family. Conflict, functionalist and symbolic psychological theories help eliminate some biases regarding the caregiving for parents and change public assumptions into more positive. Since caregiving is usually a burdensome duty, certain responses to the trend, such as financial support from the government and support groups, help with the negative impacts and reduce the stress and emotional challenges.
Emoha Elder Care. (2021). Seven issues we face while taking care of aging parents. Emoha. Web.
Family caregiving. HelpGuide. Web.
Gardiner, A. (2019). ‘I put my own life on hold’: The pain and joy of caring for parents. The New York Times. Web.
Peterson, A., H. (2021). The staggering, exhausting, invisible costs of caring for America’s elderly. Vox. Web.
Pilkauskas, N. V., & Cross, C. (2018). Beyond the nuclear family: Trends in children living in shared households. Demography, 55(6), 2283-2297. Web.
Popular theories of sociology. National University. Web.
Saporovskaia, M. V., Kryukova, T. L., Voronina, M. E., Tikhomirova, E. V., Samokhvalova, A. G., & Khazova, S. A. (2021). A decrease in psycho-emotional health in middle-aged Russian women associated with their lifestyle. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 388. Web.
Stephens, K. (2021). Caring for aging parents. Oak street health. Web.