Caregiving as Reciprocal Exchange in Families with Seriously Mentally Ill Members

Allan V. Horwitz, Susan C. Reinhard, Sandra Howell-White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Caregiving for people with chronic illnesses, including serious mental illnesses, has generally been seen as support that a care provider gives to a dependent receiver. In contrast, this research views caregiving as a process of mutual exchange. It tests the hypothesis that how much support a mentally ill family member receives depends on how much support they provide to other family members. We also examine whether or not reciprocity depends on the role relationship between recipients and providers of care, the level of patient symptomatology, coresidence, and several sociodemographic characteristics. The sample includes 66 patients who have at least one sampled parent or sibling. The results indicate that the amount of support patients give parents and siblings is very strongly associated with how much support they receive from family members. In comparison to the other variables considered here, patient support provision is by far the best predictor of the amount of family support. These results indicate that it is worthwhile to examine caregiving in families with a member who is seriously mentally ill as a process of mutual exchange.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of health and social behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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