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Baby-boomers and the ‘denaturalisation’ of care-giving in Quebec

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2011

School of Social Work, University of Quebec in Montreal, and Centre for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology, Quebec, Canada.
Centre for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology and School of Social Work, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Centre for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology and School of Social Work, University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada.
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The North American post-war generation, known as the baby-boomers, has challenged traditional family relations and the sexual division of labour. How do these challenges play out in the face of frail, ill or disabled family members? A study undertaken in Montreal, Quebec, with baby-boomer care-givers aimed to raise understanding of the realities of this group. We met with 40 care-givers for a one and a half-hour qualitative interview to discuss their identification with their social generation, their relationship to care-giving, their values regarding care-giving, and the reality of the care-giving they offer. The findings indicate that women, in particular, no longer identify themselves mainly in terms of family. For most, care-giving is not their only or even their dominant identity. They are actively trying to maintain multiple identities: worker, wife, mother, friend and social activist, alongside that of care-giver. They are also participating in the very North American process of individualisation, leading to what we call the ‘denaturalisation’ of care-giving. Notably, the women we met with call themselves ‘care-givers’ and not simply wives, daughters or mothers, denoting that the work of care-giving no longer falls within the realm of ‘normal’ family responsibilities. These care-givers thus set limits to their caring commitments and have high expectations as to services and public support, while still adhering to norms of family responsibility for care-giving.

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