|Abstract or Summary
- This thesis presents the steps that were taken to develop thematic findings using data from a qualitative study. Using a grounded approach, the study focused on qualitatively exploring Mexican origin caregivers' conceptualizations of elder caregiving in terms of role functioning, social norms, cultural beliefs, and familial obligations. Data collected from one-time, semi-structured interviews with 44 caregivers living in East Los Angeles, California were analyzed to develop thematic content. Before the onset of data analysis, all materials related to the study were reviewed to familiarize the researcher with the data. Following the review of the study materials, each transcript was systematically sorted and analyzed in the language of the interview (i.e., Spanish or English), using Atlas.ti, qualitative data management software. The cultural psychological perspective and the research question, "How do Mexican-origin women describe becoming oriented to or familiarized with the caregiving role and its associated responsibilities?" guided the analysis.
Four themes related to women’s conceptualization of caregiving and women's personal sense of responsibility for taking care of familial elders emerged from the analysis. These themes include: 1) early and continued caregiving socialization; 2) psyche and personal identification; 3) familial expectations of giving care; and 4) cultural expectations of the family and the responsibility to give care.
The first theme, early and continued caregiving socialization, reflects women's reports of becoming familiarized with the practice of giving care early on in their lives, often years before the actual adoption of the familial caregiving role. Women shared that the process of learning to give care involved continued observation of close relatives' caregiving behaviors and skills. Of those who reported learning how to give care through the observation of relatives, most reported having observed mothers modeling caregiving behaviors in support of elderly relatives and some reported having observed the caregiving activities of aunts and grandmothers. Women also became oriented to the caregiving role by actively participating in their families' caregiving responsibilities and activities early on in their lives (e.g., taking care of siblings, preparing family meals).
The second theme to emerge from the analysis reflects the personal identification, held by some women in the sample, as primary caregiver within the family. Caregiving was described by these women as an inherent capacity or ability, not merely a set of skills or functions one becomes familiarized with or trained to do. For that reason, many were reluctant to adopt the term caregiver, instead reporting that they were performing familial duties consistent with their conceptualization of what it meant to be in a family, to be a daughter, or to be a granddaughter.
The third theme, familial expectations of giving care, reflects the profound influence of familial expectations on women's behaviors and attitudes concerning the care of dependent familial elders. Families varied with respect to the degree to which familial expectations regarding the care of dependent family members were expressed. In some families, familial expectations regarding the care of dependent relatives were expressed clearly and explicitly while, in others, familial caregiving expectations were merely implied. For those belonging to families where caregiving expectations were implied, expectations within the family regarding the care of dependent relatives were generally conveyed through the allocation of caregiving tasks within the family, such as watching over younger siblings and preparing meals for the family. This implicit expression of caregiving expectations within the family made the process of becoming a caregiver a relatively passive process, involving the gradual increase in responsibilities over dependent family members.
The fourth theme, cultural expectations of the family and the responsibility to give care, reflects the cultural forces influencing women's conceptualization of caregiving and women’s personal sense of responsibility for taking care of familial elders. Marianisma, the expectation within Latino culture that female members of a family should consider their own wants, desires, and needs as secondary to the needs of the family, particularly male members of the family (Hubbell, 1993; García & de Oliveira, 1997) was alluded to by many of the women in the sample. Similarly, familism, or the Latino cultural value of allegiance, attachment, dedication, reciprocity, and solidarity within the family (Ruiz & Ransford, 2012) was also reflected in women’s reports, with the majority of women in the sample sharing the view that, in times of need, family members should express loyalty to and responsibility for other dependent members of the family, by being available to give care and support.
Though the goal of qualitative research is not necessarily to produce generalizable results but to instead describe as many aspects of a topic in detail, as is possible; it should be noted that, because non-random sampling techniques were utilized to recruit the study participants, the generalizability of this analysis' findings is limited. For that reason, while the discovery of common elements, across interviews, related to the processes of becoming oriented to the caregiver role lends some credibility to the findings of this analysis, caution should be taken when interpreting the results of this analysis. Additional research, involving alternative study designs, larger samples, and more diverse samples in terms of socioeconomic status and geographic location, is warranted.