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Father is the Sky. Mother is the Earth: The Influence of Filial Piety in the Caregiving Experiences of Mandarinspeaking Chinese Caregiver-Employees in Southern Ontario, Canada

Caregiver-employees (CEs) are individuals who fulfill an unpaid caregiving role while simultaneously sustaining paid work. Managing these dual roles can place CEs at increased risk for caregiving burden, decreased workplace productivity and/or depressive symptoms. Few studies have examined immigrant CEs perspectives on caregiving in Canada and how cultural obligations shape caregiving in Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrant families. The purpose of the present study was twofold: 1) to understand the perspectives on caregiving of Mandarinspeaking Chinese immigrant CEs residing in Southern Ontario, Canada, and; 2) to explore how, post-migration, CEs manage their dual roles of unpaid caregiving and paid work. Data analysis of interviews from thirteen Mandarin-speaking Chinese immigrants, using Charmaz’s constructivist grounded theory, revealed five themes: 1) Filial Responsibility; 2) Gender Roles; 3) Managing dual roles; 4) Family Conflicts, and; 5) Future Concerns. This paper discusses the first three themes. Participants’ narratives suggest that there was excessive demand on CEs time to help the care recipient navigate various Canadian systems (such as health care), due to care recipients’ inability to communicate in English and/or their lack of understanding of these systems. Even though fulfilling filial responsibility created caregiver fatigue, the positive attitude and perceptions towards filial responsibility may have helped caregivers manage daily work and life challenges. There is an indication that most participants did not have many workplace accommodations to manage their dual roles of caregiving and paid employment. Building on the findings of this study, specific to filial obligations shaping caregiving in Chinese immigrant families, future studies include the examination of the influence of filial responsibility on the health and well-being of this population. Policies and practices ought to consider the unique needs of this cultural group in developing culturally appropriate institutional and community supports.


Bharati Sethi, Allison Williams, Hanzhuang Zhu, Emile Shen and Rachelle Ireson

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