Care Economies in Context

Student Work Analytical Reflections

Cultural Views about Care

From May to August, 2023, the Canada team gathered together five outstanding undergraduate students through the University of Toronto’s Research Opportunity Program. The students helped clean the interview data that our graduate students conducted and wrote a series of analytical reflections based on their observations. The following analytical reflection is by Ronica Li.

In reviewing interviews with individuals caring for their aging parents, I wanted to understand what motivated the participants to make personal sacrifices in order to provide care for their parents. Funk and Kobayashi describe the cultural and ideological contexts that influence these decisions, for example, the familialism and ideas about reciprocity that create a moral imperative for care (2011, pg 178). Previous research has underscored the importance of filial responsibility in various different ethnocultural families (Funk and Kobayashi 2011, pg 178).

The impact of cultural background has been clear throughout various interviews — SC13, a 56-year-old man caring for both of his parents, describes that he sometimes reduces work hours to meet his parent’s needs. He believes that because his family has done so much for him, he should repay them back and attributes these views to his Italian background. Additionally, his parents also cared for his grandparents, and so he feels as if he should be doing the same. Very similar experiences come up with SC1 and SC12 — cultural background, as well as family history of caring for parents, greatly influence their feelings about the importance of family in senior care.

“[W]e took care of them until their dying days. That’s what — Europeans, that’s what we do. Right? I know… Europeans, Middle East, they take care of their own. Right? Um… that’s just the way you’re brought up.”

SC13’s Transcript, 32:19

Seeing this, I wondered if the moral imperative that familialism implied was present in participants who did not come from families that had recently immigrated from other cultures. I noticed that instead, some individuals pointed more to their personalities and moral factors that influenced them to value caring for seniors within the family. For example, SC21, a 63-year-old white woman, said that although she found it important to take care of seniors in the family, she would not want her children to stop their lives to provide care for her, viewing it as unfair.

Given how multicultural Canada is and how different cultures bring in values of familialism, while others make senior care choices based on individual considerations, it is difficult to assess what the overall wants and needs of Canadians are. Understanding their motivations is the first step to creating policies and supports that are able to meet those different needs.


Funk, L. and Kobayashi, K. 2011. “‘Choice’ in Unpaid Intimate Labour: Adult Children with Aging Parents.” Pp. 182-203 in Valuing Care Work: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Ceclia Benoit and Helga Hallgrímsdottir. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.,contains,Valuing%20Care%20Work:%20Comparative%20Perspectives,

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