Essay on Sandwich Generation Lecture 1

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“The Sandwich Generation”:
Challenges of Caring for Parents,
Children, and Yourself
Dr. Katherine L. Fiori
Derner Institute
March 20th, 2012

“The Sandwich Generation”
 The

term describing a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children
 Merriam-Webster officially added the term to its dictionary in July 2006
 Tend to be in the 40 to 65 years of age group, BUT….

Generation, or Situation?

“The Sandwich Situation”:
Gender Differences
 75%

of caregivers for older adults are women
 Typical sandwich-situation ‘member’ = working female caring for both aging parents and children
 Type of assistance provided

Men  financial support
Women  emotional support and daily tasks

 Challenges

(and joys) of midlife
 Truth or myth? (i.e., what does the research show?)
 A real life example
 Tips and tools

Caring for your parents
Caring for your children
Caring for yourself

Challenges (and joys) of Midlife


A transition, not a crisis (for most)
Questioning the past and facing the future (“generativity”)
Increasing positive emotions
More likely to accept who you are and feel more in charge of situations and responsibilities


Increasing body fat, high blood pressure, increasing cholesterol “The Sandwich Situation”:
Truth or Myth?

Brody (1981): “women in the middle”
Theme of caregiving research
But is it real??

Is there really a high incidence and prevalence of this demographic?
Are these multiple roles necessarily stressful, and/or could they be satisfying?

Demographic Trends
 People

live longer (more midlife adults have surviving parents)
 People delay marriage and having children
 Declines in fertility (fewer caregivers available)  More adult children are choosing to live at home during college years
 Proportion of midlife women in the workforce has increased

The Sandwich Situation:
Actual Prevalence/Incidence?
 44%

of married individuals aged 35 to 44 both live with children and have at least one parent in fair to poor health (Marks, 1998)
 33.9 million Americans (16%) provide care for an older family member
 Parent care + dependent child + working = 8% of American women and men (Rosenthal et al., 1996)

The Sandwich Situation:
Actual Prevalence/Incidence?

A New York Times article from 2008 reported that there are 20 million Americans (mostly women) who are juggling responsibilities for their own children and their aging parents at the same time

53% of those women reported feeling forced to choose (at least once a week) between being there for their children or being there for their ailing parents

Pew Research Center: 1 out of 8 Americans aged 40 to
60 are raising a child and caring for a parent
Although the majority of adults are not “sandwiched,” it will likely become increasingly prevalent given current demographic trends

The Sandwich Situation:
Good or Bad?

Holding multiple roles:

Role strain theory vs. role enhancement theory vs. role context theory

Role Context Theory

Caregiving  mastery for women in 50s and 60s, but not in late 60s and 70s
For women, caregiving + work > caregiving alone in terms of psychological well-being
For men, help to parents  distress, but less so when combined with employment; help to adult children and parents  life satisfaction (women less affected by multiple roles, either positively or negatively)

The Sandwich Situation:
Good or Bad?

In sum, psychological health effects (negative or positive) are small
Caring for parents, in particular, can be an unexpected, unpredictable, and frustrating stressor  it is a nonnormative, unanticipated demand
If the sandwich situation is viewed increasingly as
‘normative,’ coping strategies may be positively influenced…
– e.g., having a strong sense of support and care from community, using acceptance strategies, focusing on positive outcomes
BUT…recent research