Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-hsbzg Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-23T16:50:36.029Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Networks of Informal Caring: A Mixed-Methods Approach*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 October 2014

Alasdair Rutherford*
School of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Scotland
Alison Bowes
School of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Scotland
La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doiventêtreadressées à: / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Alasdair Rutherford, Ph.D. School of Applied Social Science University of Stirling Stirling, FK9 4LA, United Kingdom (


Care for older people is a complex phenomenon, and is an area of pressing policy concern. Bringing together literature on care from social gerontology and economics, we report the findings of a mixed-methods project exploring networks of informal caring. Using quantitative data from the British Household Panel Survey (official survey of British households), together with qualitative interviews with older people and informal carers, we describe differences in formal care networks, and the factors and decision-making processes that have contributed to the formation of the networks. A network approach to care permits both quantitative and qualitative study, and the approach can be used to explore many important questions.


La prise en charge des soins des personnes âgées est un phénomène complexe et un sujet de préoccupation politique urgent. En rassemblant des littératures sur les prises en charge des soins venant des domaines de la gerontologie sociale et de l’economie, nous rapportons les résultats d’un projet de méthodes mixtes explorant les réseaux de prise en charge des soins informels. À l’aide de données quantitatives provenant du « British Household Panel Survey » (sondage officiel sur des menages britanniques), ainsi que des entretiens qualitatifs avec des personnes âgées et des travailleurs sociaux informels, nous décrivons des réseaux de prise en charge des soins informels différents, et les facteurs et processus décisifs qui ont contribué à la formation des réseaux. Une approche basée sur des réseaux de prise en charge des soins permet une étude à la fois quantitative et qualitative, et peut être utilisée pour explorer plusieurs questions importantes.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the Centre for Population Change.


Antonucci, T. C., & Akiyama, H. (1987). Social networks in adult life and a preliminary examination of the convoy model. Journal of Gerontology, 42(5), 519527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Antonucci, T. C., Ajrouch, K. J., & Birditt, K. S. (2013). The convoy model: Explaining social relations from a multidisciplinary perspective. The Gerontologist, 54(1), 8292.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Appelbaum, E., Bailey, T., Berg, P., & Kalleberg, A. L. (2002). Shared work/valued care: New norms for organizing market work and unpaid care work. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.Google Scholar
Becker, G. S. (1981). Altruism in the family and selfishness in the market place. Economica, 48(189), 115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bell, D., & Bowes, A. M. (2006). Financial care models in Scotland and the UK. London, UK: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Bell, D., Bowes, A., & Heitmueller, A. (2007). Did the introduction of free personal care in Scotland result in a reduction of informal care? WDA-HSG Discussion Paper, No. 2007-3. St. Gallen, Switzerland: World Demographic Association.Google Scholar
Bell, D., & Rutherford, A. (2013). Individual and geographic factors in the formation of care networks in the UK. Population, Space and Place, 19(6), 727737.Google Scholar
Bernheim, B. D., Shleifer, A., & Summers, L. H. (1985). The strategic bequest motive. Journal of Political Economy, 93(6), 10451076.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bris, H. J. (1993). Family care of dependent older people in the European community. Luxembourg: Stationary Office Books.Google Scholar
Carers, UK. (2012). Facts about carers 2012. Policy Briefing. London, UK: Carers UK.Google Scholar
Carpentier, N., & Ducharme, F. (2005). Support network transformations in the first stages of the caregiver’s career. Qualitative Health Research, 15(3), 289311.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Clyburn, L. D., Stones, M. J., & Hadjistavropoulos, T. (2000). Predicting caregiver burden and depression in Alzheimer’s disease. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 55(1), S2S13.Google ScholarPubMed
Corcoran, M. A. (2011). Caregiving styles: A cognitive and behavioral typology associated with dementia family caregiving. The Gerontologist, 51(4), 463472.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Engers, M., & Stern, S. (2002). Long-term care and family bargaining. International Economic Review, 43(1), 73114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Finch, J. D., & Mason, J. (1993). Negotiating family responsibilities. London, UK: Tavistock/Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Francis, J., & McDaid, D. (2009). SCIE’s work on economics and the importance of informal care. In Cutis, L. (Ed.), Unit costs of health and social care (pp. 2733). Canterbury, UK: University of Kent.Google Scholar
Gans, D., & Silverstein, M. (2006). Norms of filial responsibility for aging parents across time and generations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(4), 961976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haley, W. E. (2003). Family caregivers of elderly patients with cancer: Understanding and minimizing the burden of care. The Journal of Supportive Oncology, 1(4 Suppl. 2), 2529.Google ScholarPubMed
Hiedemann, B., & Stern, S. (1999). Strategic play among family members when making long-term care decisions. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 40(1), 2957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hirst, M. (2001). Trends in informal care in Great Britain during the 1990s. Health & Social Care in the Community, 9(6), 348357.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kahn, R. L., & Antonucci, T. C. (1980). Convoys over the life course: Attachment, roles, and social support. Life-Span Development and Behavior, 3, 253286.Google Scholar
Karlsson, M., Mayhew, L., Plumb, R., & Rickayzen, B. (2006). Future costs for long-term care: Cost projections for long-term care for older people in the United Kingdom. Health Policy, 75(2), 187213.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Keating, N., Oftinowski, P., Wenger, C., Fast, J., & Derksen, L. (2003). Understanding the caring capacity of informal networks of frail seniors: A case for care networks. Ageing & Society, 23(1), 115127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Konrad, K. A., Kunemund, H., Lommerud, K. E., & Robledo, J. R. (2002). Geography of the family. The American Economic Review, 92(4), 981998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lewis, J., & Meredith, B. (1988). Daughters who care: Daughters caring for mothers at home. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
Lilly, M. B., Laporte, A., & Coyte, P. C. (2007). Labor market work and home care’s unpaid caregivers: A systematic review of labor force participation rates, predictors of labor market withdrawal, and hours of work. Milbank Quarterly, 85(4), 641690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lyon, D., & Glucksmann, M. (2008). Comparative configurations of care work across Europe. Sociology, 42(1), 101118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nolan, M., Grant, G., & Keady, J. (1996). Understanding family care: A multidimensional model of caring and coping. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
Norton, E. C., & Van Houtven, C. H. (2006). Inter-vivos transfers and exchange. Southern Economic Journal, 73(1), 157172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pezzin, L. E., Pollak, R. A., & Schone, B. S. (2007). Efficiency in family bargaining: Living arrangements and caregiving decisions of adult children and disabled elderly parents. CESifo Economic Studies, 53(1), 6996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Phillipson, C. (2001). The family and community life of older people: Social networks and social support in three urban areas. London, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pickard, L. (2012). Substitution between formal and informal care: A ‘natural experiment’ in social policy in Britain between 1985 and 2000. Ageing & Society, 32(7), 11471175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pickard, L. (2014). A growing care gap? The supply of unpaid care for older people by their adult children in England to 2032. Ageing & Society, Online, 128.Google Scholar
Pickard, L., Wittenberg, R., Comas-Herrera, A., King, D., & Malley, J. (2007). Care by spouses, care by children: Projections of informal care for older people in England to 2031. Social Policy and Society, 6(3), 353366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinquart, M., & Sorensen, S. (2003). Differences between caregivers and noncaregivers in psychological health and physical health: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 18(2), 250267.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rainer, H., & Siedler, T. (2009). O brother, where art thou? The effects of having a sibling on geographic mobility and labour market outcomes. Economica, 76(303), 528556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roe, B., Whattam, M., Young, H., & Dimond, M. (2001). Elders’ perceptions of formal and informal care: Aspects of getting and receiving help for their activities of daily living. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 10(3), 398405.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rummery, K., & Fine, M. (2012). Care: A critical review of theory, policy and practice. Social Policy & Administration, 46(3), 321343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schulz, R., Mendelsohn, A. B., Haley, W. E., Mahoney, D., Allen, R. S., Zhang, S., et al. (2003). End-of-life care and the effects of bereavement on family caregivers of persons with dementia. New England Journal of Medicine, 349(20), 19361942.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Spiess, C. K., & Schneider, A. U. (2003). Interactions between care-giving and paid work hours among European midlife women, 1994 to 1996. Ageing & Society, 23(1), 4168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stoller, E. P., & Pugliesi, K. L. (1991). Size and effectiveness of informal helping networks: A panel study of older people in the community. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 32(2), 180191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ungerson, C. (1987). Policy is personal: Sex, gender, and informal care. London, UK: Tavistock Publications.Google Scholar
van Tilburg, T. (1998). Losing and gaining in old age: Changes in personal network size and social support in a four-year longitudinal study. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 53B(6), S313S323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wenger, G. C. (1991). A network typology: From theory to practice. Journal of Aging Studies, 5(2), 147162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wenger, G. C., & Keating, N. (2008). The evolution of networks of rural older adults. In Keating, N. (Ed.), Rural ageing: A good place to grow old? (pp. 3342). North Wales, UK: Policy Press.Google Scholar
Williams, F. (2004). Rethinking families. London, UK: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.Google Scholar
Williams, F. (2010). Claiming and framing in the making of care policies: The recognition and redistribution of care. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.Google Scholar
Willyard, J., Miller, K., Shoemaker, M., & Addison, P. (2008). Making sense of sibling responsibility for family caregiving. Qualitative Health Research, 18(12), 16731686.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed