Skip to main content Accessibility help

How does peer similarity influence adult children caregivers' perceptions of support from peers? A mixed-method study



Due to the growing elderly population, adult children care-givers (ACCs) are increasingly providing complex care for one or both elderly parents. Social support from similar peers can mitigate care-giving-related health declines. To date, ‘peer similarity’ amongst care-givers has been predominantly investigated in the context of peer-matching interventions. However, because peer similarity is especially influential in ‘naturally occurring’ support networks, care-givers' everyday peer support engagement warrants further attention. Our goal was to explore care-givers' everyday peer support engagement and the influence of peer similarity on support perceptions. We employed a mixed-method design using Web-based surveys and in-depth qualitative interviews. The quantitative data were analysed using a hierarchical multiple while qualitative data were thematically analysed. Seventy-one ACCs completed the online questionnaire and 15 participated in a telephone interview. Peer similarity was positively and significantly associated with perceived support (β = 0.469, p < 0.0005) and explained 18.5 per cent of the additional variance. ACCs' narratives suggested the most important aspect of similarity was ‘shared care-giving experience’ as it optimised the support received from peers, and also enhanced the quality of the relationship. In conclusion, both data-sets underscored that peer similarity importantly influences support perceptions. The importance of ‘shared care-giving experience’ suggests that a more comprehensive understanding of this concept is needed to optimise peer-matching endeavours. Peer similarity's influence on relationship quality should also be explored.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Marina Bastawrous Wasilewski, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI), Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 160–500 University Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G 1V7, Canada E-mail:


Hide All
Bastawrous, M., Gignac, M. A., Kapral, M. K. and Cameron, J. I. 2015. Adult daughters providing post-stroke care to a parent: a qualitative study of the impact that role overload has on lifestyle, participation and family relationships. Clinical Rehabilitation, 6, 29, 592600.
Bolger, N. and Amarel, D. 2007. Effects of social support visibility on adjustment to stress: experimental evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 3, 458–75.
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 2, 77101.
Brody, E. M. 1985. Parent care as a normative family stress. The Gerontologist, 25, 1, 1929.
Buunk, A. P. and Gibbons, F. X. 2007. Social comparison: the end of a theory and the emergence of a field. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 102, 1, 321.
Cameron, J. I., Cheung, A. M., Streiner, D. L., Coyte, P. C. and Stewart, D. E. 2006. Stroke survivors’ behavioral and psychologic symptoms are associated with informal caregivers’ experiences of depression. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 87, 2, 177–83.
Caracelli, V. J. and Greene, J. C. 1993. Data analysis strategies for mixed-method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15, 2, 195207.
Carver, C. 1997. You want to measure coping but your protocol's too long: consider the brief COPE. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4, 1, 92100.
Cohen, S. and Wills, T. A. 1985. Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 2, 310–57.
Colvin, J., Chenoweth, L., Bold, M. and Harding, C. 2004. Caregivers of older adults: advantages and disadvantages of internet-based social support. Family Relations, 53, 1, 4957.
Cranswick, K. and Dosman, D. 2008. Eldercare: what we know today. Canadian Social Trends, 86, 1, 4856.
Creswell, J. W. 1998. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions. Sage, London.
Creswell, J. W. and Clark, V. L. 2011. Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. Second edition, Thousand Oaks, Sage, California.
Giannakouris, K. 2011. Ageing Characterises the Demographic Perspectives of the European Societies. Statistics in Focus, Eurostat, Luxembourg.
Granovetter, M. S. 1973. The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 79, 6, 1360–80.
Harrell, F. E. 2001. Regression Modeling Strategies: With Applications to Linear Models, Logistic Regression and Survival Analysis. Springer, New York.
Ho, C. J., Weitzman, P. F., Cui, X. and Levkoff, S. E. 2000. Stress and service use among minority caregivers to elders with dementia. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 33, 1, 6788.
Kaschowitz, J. and Brandt, M. 2017. Health effects of informal caregiving across Europe: a longitudinal approach. Social Science and Medicine, 173, 7280.
Lakey, B., Ross, L. T., Butler, C. and Bentley, K. 1996. Making social support judgments: the role of similarity and conscientiousness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 15, 3, 283304.
McCullagh, E., Brigstocke, G., Donaldson, N. and Kalra, L. 2005. Determinants of caregiving burden and quality of life in caregivers of stroke patients. Stroke, 36, 10, 2181–6.
Mesch, G. 2006. Online friendship formation, communication channels, and social closeness. International Journal of Internet Science, 1, 1, 29.
Morley, D., Selai, C. and Thompson, A. 2012. The self-report Barthel Index: preliminary validation in people with Parkinson's disease. European Journal of Neurology, 19, 6, 927–9.
Naslund, J. A., Aschbrenner, K. A., Marsch, L. A. and Bartels, S. J. 2016. The future of mental health care: peer-to-peer support and social media. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 25, 2, 110.
National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 2015. Caregiving in the U.S. 2015. The National Alliance for Caregiving, Bethesda, MD. Available online at
O'Cathain, A., Murphy, E. and Nicholl, J. 2007. Integration and publications as indicators of ‘yield’ from mixed methods studies. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1, 2, 147–63.
Ostwald, S. K., Bernal, M. P., Cron, S. G. and Godwin, K. M. 2009. Stress experienced by stroke survivors and spousal caregivers during the first year after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation. Topics in Stroke Rehabilitation, 16, 2, 93104.
Patton, M. Q. 1999. Enhancing the quality and credibility of qualitative analysis. Health Services Research, 34, 5, 1189–208.
Pearlin, L. I. and Schooler, C. 1978. The structure of coping. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 19, 1, 221.
Pierce, G. R. 1994. The Quality of Relationships Inventory: assessing the interpersonal context of social support. In Burleson, B., Albrecht, T. and Sarason, I. G. (eds), Communication of Social Support: Messages, Interactions, Relationships, and Community. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 247–66.
Pierce, G. R., Sarason, I. G. and Sarason, B. R. 1991. General and relationship-based perceptions of social support: are two constructs better than one? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 6, 1028–39.
Pillemer, K. K. and Suitor, J. J. J. 1996. ‘It takes one to help one’: effects of similar others on the well-being of caregivers. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 51B, 5, S2507.
Pillemer, K. and Suitor, J. J. 2002. Peer support for Alzheimer's caregivers: is it enough to make a difference? Research on Aging, 24, 2, 171–92.
Pinquart, M. and Sorensen, S. 2007. Correlates of physical health of informal caregivers: a meta-analysis. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 62B, 2, 126–37.
Raina, P., Dukeshire, S., Lindsay, J. and Chambers, L. W. 1998. Chronic conditions and disabilities among seniors: an analysis of population-based Health and Activity Limitation Surveys. Annals of Epidemiology, 8, 6, 402–9.
Riedel, M. and Kraus, M. 2011. Informal care provision in Europe: regulation and profile of providers. ENEPRI Research Report 96, European Network of Economic Policy Research Institutes, Brussels.
Roots, C. R. 2014. The Sandwich Generation: Adult Children Caring for Aging Parents. Routledge, Abingdon, UK.
Sabir, M., Pillemer, K., Suitor, J. and Patterson, M. 2003. Predictors of successful relationships in a peer support program for Alzheimer's caregivers. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, 18, 2, 115–22.
Sandelowski, M. 2000 a. Combining qualitative and quantitative sampling, data collection, and analysis techniques in mixed-method studies. Research in Nursing and Health, 23, 3, 246–55.
Sandelowski, M. 2000 b. Whatever happened to qualitative description? Research in Nursing and Health, 23, 4, 334–40.
Smith, R. and Greenwood, N. 2014. The impact of volunteer mentoring schemes on carers of people with dementia and volunteer mentors: a systematic review. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, 29, 1, 817.
Stefanone, M. A. and Jang, C. Y. 2008. Writing for friends and family: the interpersonal nature of blogs. Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, 13, 1, 123–40.
Stewart, M., Barnfather, A., Neufeld, A., Warren, S., Letourneau, N. and Liu, L. 2006. Accessible support for family caregivers of seniors with chronic conditions: from isolation to inclusion. Canadian Journal on Aging/La Revue canadienne du vieillissement, 25, 2, 179–92.
Stewart, M. J., Doble, S., Hart, G., Langille, L. and MacPherson, K. 1997. Peer visitor support for family caregivers of seniors with stroke. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research/Revue canadienne de recherche en sciences infirmieres, 30, 2, 87117.
Sturges, J. E. and Hanrahan, K. J. 2004. Comparing telephone and face-to-face qualitative interviewing: a research note. Qualitative Research, 4, 1, 107–18.
Suitor, J. J. and Pillemer, K. 2000. When experience counts most: effects of experiential similarity on men's and women's receipt of support during bereavement. Social Networks, 22, 4, 299312.
Suitor, J.J. and Pillemer, K. 2002. Gender, social support, and experiential similarity during chronic stress: the case of family caregivers. In Pescosolido, B. and Levy, J. (eds), Advances in Medical Sociology: Social Networks. JAI Press, New York, 247–66.
Suls, J. and Wheeler, L. 2000. A selective history of classic and neo-social comparison theory. In Suls, J. and Wheeler, L. (eds), Handbook of Social Comparison. Springer, New York, 319.
Thorogood, N. and Green, J. 2009. Qualitative Methods for Health Research. Sage, London.
Torjman, S. 2015. Renewing Canada's Social Architecture: Policies in Support of Caregivers. Caledon Institute of Social Policy, Toronto.
Toseland, R. W. and Rossiter, C. M. 1989. Group interventions to support family caregivers: a review and analysis. The Gerontologist, 29, 4, 438–48.
Uchino, B. N. 2009. Understanding the links between social support and physical health: a life-span perspective with emphasis on the separability of perceived and received support. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 3, 236–55.
Wilks, S. E. and Croom, B. 2008. Perceived stress and resilience in Alzheimer's disease caregivers: testing moderation and mediation models of social support. Aging and Mental Health, 12, 3, 357–65.
Wilson, E., Thalanany, M., Shepstone, L., Charlesworth, G., Poland, F., Harvey, I., Price, D., Reynolds, S. and Mugford, M. 2009. Befriending carers of people with dementia: a cost utility analysis. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 24, 6, 610–23.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed