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Family Carers of Older People: Results from a National Survey of Stress, Conflict and Coping


Providing care to an older relative can be a rewarding and worthwhile experience. However, with the growth in the proportion of older people worldwide, especially those with chronic illnesses, family caregivers are under increasing pressures to provide care in the community. Research shows that carers who experience burden, depression or poor health may be at greater risk of engaging in potentially harmful behaviours towards the older person to whom they provide care.


This paper presents findings from a national cross-sectional survey of carers in receipt of a state-funded carer’s allowance for care provided to an older person. Over 2,300 carers participated in an anonymous postal survey which measured carers’ experience of stress, coping and conflict, representing a response rate of fifty-eight per cent. The self-administered questionnaire comprised a battery of instruments including the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), the Centre for Epidemiology Depression Scale (CED-S) and a validated modified version of the original Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS), which was used to measure potentially harmful carer behaviour.


Survey results showed the extent to which carers are at risk for clinical depression, experience burden and engage in physical and psychological behaviours which are potentially harmful to an older person and identified associated caregiving factors. Results from this survey will be used to examine how conflict within a caregiving relationship can be managed and will be used to inform the development of early interventions that address the needs of informal carers of older people in order to prevent conflict deteriorating into serious incidents of abuse.


Keywords: familycarers, conflict, elder abuse, national survey 


Aims and objectives:

The overall aim of the study was to examine family carers’ experiences of caring for an older person in the community and to explore the impact of caregiving on the carer and the conflicts that may arise within the caregiving relationship.


The objectives were:

  • To examine the nature and type of care provided by family carers to older people
  • To measure carer burden among family carers who provide care to an older family member
  • To measure the extent to which family carers experience conflict in the caregiving relationship
  • To measure the extent to which family carers engage in potentially harmful behaviours towards older family members
  • To identify factors associated with potentially harmful behaviours engaged in by family carers
  • To examine family carers’ experiences of support and coping in their role as caregiver.


Family Carers of Older People:Results from a National Survey of Stress, Conflict and Coping-Full Report

              Fact File                             


         Presentation Slides                                                   Video    



Speaker biography

Dr Attracta Lafferty

Attracta has been Associate Centre Director at the National Centre for the Protection of Older People (NCPOP) in UCD for the past five years. Attracta started her studies at Univeristy of Ulster with a Bachelor's degree in Social Psychology, which was followed by a Master's degree in Applied Psychology, and in 2009 she was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy, also from the University of Ulster. She has worked on several research projects involving vulnerable adults, including older people and people with intellectual disabilities. Before joining the Centre, Attracta worked as a Research Fello on a national ageing research project in the field of intellectual disabilities and has since worked on several research projects in elder abuse. These have included a study with survivors of elder abuse and two large-scale surveys; Ireland's first national prevalence study of elder abuse and a national study of staff-resident interactions in residential care setting for older people.