Caringis Culturally Defined As Being natural For

Caring?is Culturally Defined As Being ?natural? For Women? (Finch And Groves, 1983). Critically Disc Essay, Research Paper

An increasing ageing population has led to a greater

emphasis on the role of informal carers in providing support for older and

disabled people (Twigg: 1996).? So what

is caring?? Cancian et al (2000)

describe care giving as feelings of affection and responsibility combined with

actions that provide responsively for an individuals personal needs or well

being.? A carer is anyone, irrespective

of age, whose life is in some way restricted because of the need to take

responsibility for the care of a person who has mental health problems, learning

disabilities, is physically disabled or whose health is impaired by sickness or

who is elderly and frail (Cancian et al 2000).?

Britain has an estimated 5.7 million carers and one in six

households contains a carer.? The

numbers of carers providing support for more than 20 or more hours every week

has increased from 1.5 million to 1.7 million since 1990.? In the Northwest 17% of adults – the highest

proportion in the UK ? are carers (General Household Survey: 1995).? It is estimated that there are 51,000 young

people under the age of 18 who are carers.?

Accurate figures are difficult to obtain due to the hidden nature of

caring.? The average age for becoming a

carer is between 45 to 64 (Travers: 1996).?

Higher proportions of women (14%) than men (11%) are carers.? Family, friends and relatives are the UK?s

5.7 million carers who provide most health and community care. Social Services

and the NHS rely on carer?s willingness and ability to provide care. This care

is worth an estimated £34 billion per year (General Household Survey: 1995).? This essay will discuss arguments for and against women

carers who are traditionally seen as ?natural? carers in both formal and

informal sectors.? A general overview of

caring will be taken and arguments will be from both formal and informal

sectors of caring.? The arguments will

be supported through studies that highlight explanations and evidence for women

carers.? In contrast, a discussion about

men as caregivers and why they are the ?forgotten carers? will be

emphasised.? In addition, evidence for

men as caregivers and if apathy towards men carers aggravates women?s roles as

?natural? carers will also be discussed.?

In conclusion to this essay, suggestions about how gender inequality can

be reduced in caregiving will be analysed. Caring is closely linked to gender.? Consistent finding on family research

suggests that vast majority of carers for friends and relatives with chronic

disabilities are women.? Despite changes

in society over the past few decades, women still do most of the unpaid and

paid caregiving and their feelings and actions of care are naturally associated

with them (Lee: 1998).? Cancian et al (2000) explains the ?naturalness? of women

carers with two explanations: biological and social.? The biological explanation suggests that the sex differences and

deep seated psychological differences that develop in early childhood between

men and women explain why women are culturally seen as?? ?natural? carers.? Women have the hormones or instincts to provide emotional and

physical care, whilst men have the hormones or instincts to provide good

economical support within the family.?

Marks (1997) also supports this argument by suggesting that men have a

two-fold role within the family.?

Firstly they provide the resources needed to make the home a safer place

and secondly a male?s task in later stage of baby?s development is to introduce

the baby to the outside world and help the mother and infant to separate.? However the explanation by Marks (1997) is

of a patronising nature, as she does not appreciate women?s efforts to shift

the patriarchal structures of caregiving especially after

industrialisation.? The social explanation by Cancian (2000) suggests that

cultural beliefs and economic opportunities shape how carers are perceived by

society.? Both men and women would focus

on caring rather than focusing on alternate activities if caring was not

devalued by society and if men carers were seen as a ?real man? and women

carers as a ?good woman? by the society (Cancian et al: 2000, Walker: 1992).? In contrast, Jones (1994) suggests that

caring is socially constructed activity which is connected to women? s

biology.? Women are exploited as unpaid

carers of children, dependants and male partners and therefore they are

excluded from power and authority in the public domain.? This social justification is found in

essentialist arguments about natural, biological and functions of women.? The patriarchal oppression has also led women

to do majority of caring in both inside and outside the family (Jones 1994). ?In contrast to Cancian?s (2000) explanations for women as

natural carers, Finley (1989) described four explanatory models for why it is

?natural? for women to do the majority of caring.? The time available hypothesis suggests that the competing roles

and time demands, restrict the amount of time that is available for caring. The

external resources hypothesis predicts that assets achieved externally i.e.

education, occupation and income determine the power dynamics within the

family.? On the other side of the

spectrum, the gender role socialisation suggests that gender role attitudes

learned in the socialisation process influence the gender division in

caring.? The specialisation of tasks

suggests that women and men perform different but complimentary tasks to

maximise the well being of the family (Finley: 1989).The research conducted by Finley (1989) explored if the

four models were adequate in explaining why women are more likely to be

involved in caregiving.? The results

were profound.? The data reveals that

neither the external hypothesis nor the time available hypothesis accounts for

the gender differences in caregiving.?

In terms of task specialisation, Finley (1989) concludes that men are do

not specialise in certain types of tasks and females are more likely than males

to provide help.? The study also

concludes that gender socialisation is the best explanation for why women are

seen as natural carers.??? Heenan (2000) who conducted a study on women as informal

carers in Northern Ireland, more than a decade later supported Finley?s

conclusion.? The results were unchanged

and therefore shows the patriarchal nature of caring.? The study acknowledged that majority of research conducted on

women carers is quantitative and is therefore limited.? Heenan (2000) conducted a qualitative study

to explore the intrinsic reasons for why women do majority of caregiving. The

finding suggested that the women who were interviewed perceived caring as

natural and unquestionable.? Caring is

dependable on a set of cultural expectations and norms and the acceptance of a

caring role is often related to complicated social expectations and

obligations.? This is supported by

Chamberlayne et al (1997) who concludes, that women are caught up in the

complexities of familial relationships, a web of hidden gendered pressures

concerning conflicting ties of obligation and affection.?? The women interviewed also believed that they were

returning the help they were given by their relatives and that caring is ?part

and parcel of marrying a farmer? (Heenan: 2000).? The women felt that being seen as a ?natural? carer was a vicious

circle and they could not relate to the description of their role.? They were therefore socialised into the

thought that caring was something that is not thought about or analysed as a

distinctive part of their lives and being a carer was meaningless.? Finch and Mason (1993) who noted giving and

receiving care as unremarkable supported this notion. Cancian (2000) also suggests

that the devaluation of care becomes institutionalised and it persists in the

routine roles and practices that contemporary organisations inherit and

repeat.? Parson (1967) theory suggests

that norms are consensual.? People agree

to the norms to avoid a disordered society.?

Functionalists also believe that the process of socialisation reproduces

?successful? and ?ordered? individuals to reproduce a ?ordered? society

(Parsons: 1967).? However, the study by

Heenan (2000), fails to specify how the men in the family see the patriarchal

nature of caregiving, which would have given an unbiased overview of why women

are seen as ?natural? carers from a male?s perspective.?? Important criticisms of the above arguments emerged during

the 1990?s, which suggested that, substantially more men were involved in

caring than previously thought.? Men are

caring out a wide range of caring roles involving many hours per week (Fisher:

1994).? Evidence suggests that despite

women being the predominant carers, both men and women have an equal chance of

being a carer in a spousal relationship.?

Therefore in the selection of the carer gender differences may be

outweighed by the presence of a spouse (Twigg: 1994).? However, MacDougall (1997) suggests that women are less likely to

be self concerned when someone is in need whilst men are less likely to be

responsive to someone else?s need.?

However, more research is needed on the nature of male caregivers.Despite the explanations and evidence for and against

women as ?natural? carers, evidence suggests that there are a majority of men

who are also involved in both aspects for caregiving.? The theory highlighted above can be challenged with subsequent

research into male caregivers.? This

part of the essay will provide evidence for why men are seen as the ?forgotten

carers? and if apathy towards men carers exaggerates the statement made by

Finch and Groves (1983).? Men are changing, redefining and reinventing

themselves.? Men are increasing in

numbers within the caring professions most notably nursing and individual men have

demonstrated these caring behaviours through child care and by having closer

relationships with their children (Sabo et al: 1995).? Perkins et al (1993) and Squires (1995) have found that men are

entering nursing often at a similar age as women and their desire to care for

others was found to be a recurrent theme as well as job security, empowerment

and power as a professional.?? According to Sabo et al (1995) men remain the ?forgotten

carers? because their considerable contribution to care often go unrecognised

and there are three assumptions to support why men are the forgotten

carers.? Firstly men are unlikely to be

primary caregivers, secondly older men receive more support from formal and

voluntary services than women carers do and thirdly when men do engage in a

caregiving role they are more likely to obtain informal support from others

than women (Sabo et al: 1995).? The traditional masculine identity also continues to

possess the modern man.? This identity

is found in oppressive practises that affect women, gay men and Black men.? Within nursing, traditional masculine men

are achieving positions of power in ever increasing numbers and it is not

unreasonable to suggest that these men have tended to suppress their caring

instincts in order to maintain their traditional masculine roles (Davies:

1995).? Chodorow (1978) also supports

this argument and suggests that men learn work values through gender

socialisation by becoming separate, controlling feelings and to valuing

rationality.? Men have the ability to

care however they need to be shown how.?

Sexism, racism and homophobia need to be continually challenged if

caring is to achieve any authenticity (Davies: 1995).???? To conclude women are still seen as ?natural? carers due

to the norms and ?acceptable? behaviours set by the society.? Women face the burden of caring in both

formal and informal sectors, due to the ageing population and the socialisation

process, which see caring as ?natural? for women.? Walker (1992) suggests that the predominance of women carers has

been traditionally explained at an individual level and gender equity has been

ignored.? Walker (1992) & Jones

(1994) also suggests that the naturalness of the arrangement of women carers have

been defended by the assumptions that women have closer emotional ties to

family members and caring is central to women?s perceptions of themselves as

?good women?.? However men are not far

behind.? They too are involved in both

formal and informal caring, but their efforts are not widely acknowledged by

the society, government or the NHS who rely so heavily on informal carers to

provide majority of the care.? More

research is also needed in the status of male caregivers and how caregiving

differs between the two sexes (Sabo et al: 1995).??? Cancian (2000) suggest four ways to lessen the gender

inequality between carers: to build recognition of the value of caregiving,

support and complement family caregiving with a system of social care, reward

paid and unpaid caregiving on the same levels as other productive work and

other duties of citizenship and to create gender equality in opportunities and

obligations to care.? Hooyman &

Gonyea (1995) also suggest that validation of women?s experiences as caregivers,

interconnections among women?s multiple roles and women?s empowerment within

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