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

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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Ageing and Society

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Social care online
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