Skip to main content Accessibility help

Equity Matters: Doing Fairness in the Context of Family Caregiving

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2010

Bonnie Lashewicz
Grant MacEwan College
Gerald Manning
University of Guelph
Margaret Hall
University of British Columbia
Norah Keating
University of Alberta
E-mail address:


Although family scholars conceptualize caregiving in terms of networks of carers, little attention has been given to equity within these groups. Siblings comprise a prevalent caregiving network of members who feel responsible for parent care, expect to share these responsibilities with each other, and look to each other to evaluate the fairness of their sharing. In this paper, a multidisciplinary approach is used to examine sibling views of equity in relation to disputes over giving parent care and receiving parent assets. A literary perspective is offered through analysis of stepsibling tensions depicted in the novel Family Matters. Real life disputes among biological siblings that have been pursued through the courts are also examined. Issues arising from these examples are then analysed through the lens of legal doctrines of equity. Siblings evaluating fairness undertake careful comparisons of their respective relationships with parents in terms of biological links to parents and type and extent of influence in interactions with parents.


Bien que les spécialistes des études familiales voient la dispensation de soins familiaux sous l'angle de réseaux d'aidants, peu d'entre eux se sont penchés sur la question de l'équité au sein de ces groupes. La fratrie constitue un réseau de dispensation de soins formé de membres qui se sentent responsables de la prise en charge du parent, qui s'attendent à partager ces responsabilités entre eux et qui évaluent ensemble le caractère équitable de ce partage. l'article rend compte d'une démarche multidisciplinaire adoptée pour examiner le point de vue des membres de la fratrie sur l'équité dans les désaccords au sujet de la prestation des soins familiaux et la disposition de l'actif du parent. l'article prend une tournure littéraire en analysant les tensions entre frères et sœurs par alliance dans le roman Family Matters. Des différends réels entre frères et sœurs du même sang qui ont été portés devant les tribunaux sont également passés en revue. Puis, les questions soulevées sont analysées sous l'angle de la doctrine de l'équité. Les membres de la fratrie qui évaluent l'équité entreprennent de comparer rigoureusement leur propre relation avec les parents des points de vue du lien biologique avec eux et de la nature et du poids de leur influence dans l'interaction avec les parents.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


Abel, E.K. (1991). Who cares for the elderly? Public policy and the experiences of adult daughters. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
Allen, K.A. (2000). A conscious and inclusive family studies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aronson, J. (1990). Old women's experiences of needing care: Choice or compulsion? Canadian Journal on Aging, 9(3), 234247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barclays Bank v. O'Brien. (1994). 1A.C. 180.Google Scholar
Birks, P., Yin, C.N. (1995). On the nature of undue influence. In Beatson, J., & Friedman, D. (Eds.), Good faith and fault in contract law (pp. 5798). London: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
Brody, E.M. (1990). Women in the middle: Their parent-care years. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Cicirelli, V.G. (1995). Sibling relationships across the life span. New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Family Relations Act. (1996). R.S.B.C., c. 128.Google Scholar
Finch, J., Hayes, L., Mason, J., Masson, J., & Wallis, L. (1996). Wills, inheritance, and families. Oxford, UK: Clarendon.Google Scholar
Finch, J., & Mason, J. (1990). Filial obligations and kin support for elderly people. Ageing and Society, 10, 151175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Finch, J., & Mason, J. (1993). Negotiating family responsibilities. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gammon v. Steeves. (1987). New Brunswick Court of Appeal. Retrieved 15 October 2005 from the LawSource database at Scholar
Globerman, J. (1995). The unencumbered child: Family reputations and responsibilities in the care of relatives with Alzheimer's disease. Family Processes, 34, 8799.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Guberman, N. (2001). Family caregiving: Is love enough?. In Orzeck, P., Guberman, N., & Barylak, L. (Eds.), Responding creatively to the needs of caregivers (pp. 121137). Montreal: Editions Saint-Martin.Google Scholar
Hall, M.I. (2002). The care agreement: Transfer of property in exchange for the promise of care and support. Estates, Trusts, & Pensions Journal, 21, 210276.Google Scholar
Hequembourg, A., & Brallier, S. (2005). Gendered stories of parental caregiving among siblings. Journal of Aging Studies, 19, 5371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ingersoll-Dayton, B., Neal, M.B., Ha, J.H., & Hammer, L.B. (2003). Redressing inequity in parent care among siblings. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65(1), 201213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jecker, N.S. (2002). Taking care of one's own: Justice and family caregiving. Theoretical Medicine, 23, 117133.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Johnson, C.L. (2000). Perspectives on American kinship in the later 1990's. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 623639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keating, N., Fast, J., Frederick, J., Cranswick, K., & Perrier, C. (1999). Eldercare in Canada: Context, content and consequences. Ottawa: Minister of Industry.Google Scholar
Keefe, J.M., & Fancey, P.J. (1999). Work and eldercare: Reciprocity between older mothers and their employed daughters. Canadian Journal on Aging, 21(2), 229241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lee, G.R., & Netzer, J.K. (1994). Filial responsibility expectations and patterns of intergenerational assistance. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56(3), 559565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merrill, D.M. (1997). Caring for elderly parents: Juggling work, family, and caregiving in middle and working class families. Westport, CT: Auburn House.Google Scholar
Mistry, R. (2002). Family matters. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.Google Scholar
Morey, P. (2004). Rohinton Mistry. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pyke, K. (1999). The micropolitics of care in relationships between aging parents and adult children: Individualism, collectivism, and power. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 661672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silverstein, M. (2006). Intergenerational family transfers in social context. In Binstock, R., & George, L. (Eds.), Handbook of aging and the social sciences. (6th ed.). (pp. 166176). Burlington, MA: Elsevier.Google Scholar
Simpson v. Simpson. (1997). British Columbia Supreme Court. Retrieved 1 June 2004 from the LawSource database Scholar
Snell, J. (1990). Filial responsibility laws in Canada: An historical study. Canadian Journal on Aging, 9, 268–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strawbridge, W.J., Wallhagen, M.I., Shema, S.J., & Kaplan, G.A. (1997). New burdens or more of the same? Comparing grandparent, spouse, and adult-child caregivers. Gerontologist, 37(4), 505510.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tracy v. Boles. (1996). British Columbia Supreme Court. Retrieved 2 March 2004 from Scholar
White, J.M., & Klein, D.M. (2002). Family theories. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 84 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Hostname: page-component-898fc554b-t4g97 Total loading time: 0.306 Render date: 2021-01-28T08:34:10.892Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "0", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Equity Matters: Doing Fairness in the Context of Family Caregiving
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Equity Matters: Doing Fairness in the Context of Family Caregiving
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Equity Matters: Doing Fairness in the Context of Family Caregiving
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *