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Characteristics and contributions of non-kin carers of older people: a closer look at friends and neighbours

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 July 2012

Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA.
Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Address for correspondence: Tracey A. LaPierre, Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, Room 716, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045-7556, USA. E-mail:


Research on informal care-giving has largely neglected the contributions of non-kin carers. This paper investigated the characteristics and contributions of non-kin who care for older adults with a long-term health problem, and investigated friends and neighbours as distinct categories of care providers. Using data from 324 non-kin carers in the 1996 General Social Survey of Canada, this study compared individual and relationship characteristics, care tasks and amount of care provided for the two groups. Interpersonal and socio-demographic characteristics were investigated as mediators of potential differences between friends and neighbours in patterns of care. Results demonstrate that friend and neighbour carers differed on age, marital status, geographical proximity and relationship closeness. Friends were more likely than neighbours to assist with personal care, bills and banking, and transportation. Neighbours were more likely to assist with home maintenance. Friends provided assistance with a greater number of tasks and provided more hours of care per week, suggesting a more prominent role in the care of non-kin than neighbours. Age, income, a minor child in the household, proximity and relationship closeness significantly predicted amount of care provided, and relationship closeness largely explained differences between friends and neighbours. Future research on informal care-giving can build on the findings that distinguish friend and neighbour carers to further discriminate the dynamics of non-kin care.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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