Women as carers

Irene Cormac

in Oxford Textbook of Women and Mental Health

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780199214365
Published online July 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199640454 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks

Women as carers

Show Summary Details


A carer is a non-professional person who provides help and support to people who are sick, infirm, or disabled (Singleton et al. 2002). The person receiving care (care recipient) may need assistance with several aspects of their life including personal care, nursing care, housekeeping, emotional support, and finances (Levine 2004).

In the United Kingdom (UK), carers contribute about £57 million to society. The 2001 UK census found that there were 5.7 million carers of whom 3.3 million were women, and about 1.25 million carers provide over 50 hours of caring per week (Office of National Statistics 2003). Mostly carers are aged 45–64 years old and two-thirds are married (Singleton et al. 2002).

Social trends affect the availability of carers, for example, the number of women in paid employment, patterns of marriage, and numbers of lone parents (Department of Heath 1999). Many topics in this chapter are relevant to carers of both genders, caring for those with physical or mental disorders, or a combination of these.

Often women become carers on the basis of family, cultural, or religious expectations. The role of carer may be additional to family roles as a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, partner, spouse, or as a relative by marriage. A woman may choose the caring role, or it may be assigned to her or she accepts the role because no one else is available. There may be cultural or practical reasons for women to be carers, for example, if their income is less important, if they have caring experience, or the role of carer is an extension of a preexisting role as parent, spouse, or partner.

Carers are affected by the duration and timing in their life of their caring duties. They are also affected by other roles and responsibilities, within and outside their family lives, by the extent of their previous social integration, and by their previous level of emotional wellbeing (Moen et al. 1995). The experience of being a carer can be positive and rewarding for both carer and care recipient. Benefits can include receiving love and affection, a sense of achievement from developing and using skills in caring, the development of personal attributes such as tolerance and patience, as well as the carer experiencing less guilt and enjoying the satisfaction of meeting religious and social expectations (Cassells et al. 2003). In the United States, a study of adult daughters caring for elderly parents suggested that women’s satisfaction with life was related to an accumulation of mastery (perceived competence and control) across their roles as mother, wife, employee, and carer (Christensen et al. 1998).

Chapter.  4483 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.