Does it Hurt to Care? Caregiving, Work and Family Conflict, and Midlife Well-Being

Marks, Nadine F.
Working paper no. 1995-02


This study examined the effects of caregiving for disabled children, spouses, parents, and other kin and nonkin on multiple dimensions of negative and positive psychological well-being and development using data from a population sample of N=5,782 employed Wisconsin Longitudinal Study middle-aged women and men respondents in 1992-93. A life-course role-identity theoretical framework was employed to hypothesize that the contemporary social ecology of caregiving leads to conflicting demands across the roles of employee and caregiver, and that this conflict is an important factor in accounting for the negative well-being effects of caregiving. Multivariate regression analyses confirmed this hypothesis, and further revealed that if work and family conflict differences between caregivers and noncaregivers were eliminated, the caregiving role would also in more instances lead to positive well-being benefits.