Laura Megan Funk & Wanda June Hounslow (2019) How do daughters interpret care as a public issue? Exploring identity, emotion and discourse in the narratives of activist-inclined carers of older parents, Community, Work & Family, DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2019.1681939

This paper starts from the premise that family care work is more than an individual struggle – it is a public issue requiring collective engagement towards structural change. But how do carers themselves become engaged in forms of activism designed to achieve such change? In this paper, we present findings from an exploration into how five activist-inclined carers of older adults (all daughters) interpret the meaning of care work. We examine whether and how their narratives manifest an understanding of care as a public issue and responsibility. Cases were theoretically sampled from a larger qualitative dataset; each woman participated in 2–3 interviews over a 2-year period. Findings illuminate the complexities of identity, emotion and broader discourses as these intersect in the daughters’ narratives. Echoing the invisibility of carer needs and of the gendered nature of family care work, participants’ activist inclinations tended to foreground the needs of older adults; to the extent that they supported structural changes to help families, this was to assist carers in their primary responsibility for parent care. Moreover, none of the women framed their efforts as part of a feminist struggle. Discussion addresses implications for the empowerment and engagement of carers within broader advocacy movements.