sealPurdue News

August 1996

Sons should shoulder more burden for aging parents, expert says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Daughters for too long have carried the primary burden of caring for elderly relatives and will need to corral their brothers into helping out in the future, predicts a Purdue expert on sibling relationships.

"As families have fewer children, and people live longer, the need for more sibling cooperation in the care of aging family members becomes a must," says Victor Cicirelli, professor of human development and author of the book, "Sibling Relationships Across the Life Span."

He says this will be particularly important in the next 15 years when baby boomers start to retire. "It's like a hurricane offshore that hasn't hit yet," says Cicirelli. "When we start getting these huge numbers of people entering old age, there simply won't be enough community resources available to care for them."

"Sisters are the glue that keeps families together. In fact, older people report feelings of greater security in old age if they have living sisters. That isn't the case for brothers. However, that doesn't mean that men can't assume more responsibility in caring for parents and aging siblings."

Cicirelli says siblings show a tendency to reach out to each other as they age. "If you are in your 60s or 70s and lose a spouse -- and your children are spread around the country -- then you do gravitate to that sister or brother who may be nearby."

He suggests that getting brothers to assist with the care of aging relatives may require only asking them. "People later in life say, 'I know I could ask my siblings for help and they would do it.' The problem is they really don't ask that much help of each other."

Caregiving for the aging is one of many topics covered in Cicirelli's new book, in which he attempts to survey and summarize sibling research across the life span.

CONTACT: Victor Cicirelli, (765) 494-6925;Internet:
Compiled by Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; Internet,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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