Transitions to Caregiving, Gender, and Psychological Well-Being:

Prospective Evidence from the National Survey of Families and Households

Nadine F. Marks

James David Lambert


Guided by a life course role theoretical framework, this study examined the effects of transitions into the role of caregiver for either a disabled child, spouse, parent, other kin, or other nonkin on eleven dimensions of psychological well-being. Data came from a national probability sample of adults ages 19-95, who were noncaregiver primary respondents to the National Survey of Families and Households in 1987-88, and who were followed up longitudinally in 1992-93 (N=8,305). Results from multivariate regression analyses confirmed that the transition to a caregiver role is often associated with negative effects; e.g., becoming a caregiver for a disabled child, spouse, or parent is associated with increased psychological distress. However, in selected instances we found that taking on a caregiver role was also associated with beneficial effects. Evidence regarding gender differences in the effects of transitioning into a caregiver role was inconsistent, varying across different outcomes and caregiving role relationship types.