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Psychol Aging. 2011 Mar;26(1):1-14. doi: 10.1037/a0021863.

Spouses, adult children, and children-in-law as caregivers of older adults: a meta-analytic comparison.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany.


The present meta-analysis integrates the results from 168 empirical studies on differences between caregiving spouses, adult children, and children-in-law. Spouses differ from children and children-in-law significantly with regard to sociodemographic variables; also, they provide more support but report fewer care recipient behavior problems. Spouse caregivers report more depression symptoms, greater financial and physical burden, and lower levels of psychological well-being. Higher levels of psychological distress among spouses are explained mostly--but not completely--by higher levels of care provision. Few differences emerge between children and children-in-law, but children-in-law perceive the relationship with the care recipient as less positive and they report fewer uplifts of caregiving.

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