Caregivers Provide Poor Care When They View Themselves in Negative Light

Caregivers experience a heavy burden when they are giving unpaid care to family members. “It is well established that providing informal care for a family member poses risks for the caregiver. Compared with non-caregivers, caregivers face greater physical illnesses, stress, and mental health problems,” said Jennifer Q. Morse of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Relationship attributes have been related to greater caregiver depression, burden, and providing problematic care.” Attachment Theory explains that in order for an adult caregiver to provide good care, they must have a good model of self and others. “The model of self describes whether people view themselves as worthy of care; model of others describes whether others can be trusted to provide care,” said Morse. When an individual has a negative model of self, they may provide poor care and be less responsive to the patient’s needs. When they have a negative model of others, they may provide less overall care and less relevant care.

In an attempt to determine if the model of self and others influenced the type of care given by adult caregivers, Morse and her team reviewed data from 430 caregivers who were part of the Family Relationships in Late Life (FRILL 2) Project, a study designed to examine the effects and relationships of family caregivers. Based on interviews that were conducted on the participants, the team evaluated the depressive symptoms of the caregivers with relation to the attachment models. They found that when a caregiver had a positive model of self they experienced less depression and were more attentive and respectful to their patient. Additionally, they realized that viewing others in a positive light also minimized depressive symptoms, but did not affect quality of care. The team discovered that younger, female caregivers were at higher risk of depression and administering poor care. They said, “These results partially concur with reports identifying female caregivers as endorsing more burden and depression.”

Morse, J. Q., Shaffer, D. R., Williamson, G. M., Dooley, W. K., & Schulz, R. (2011, May 23). Models of Self and Others and Their Relation to Positive and Negative Caregiving Responses. Psychology and Aging. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023960

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • ginny collins

    ginny collins

    September 30th, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    The bottom line is that these family members and care givers are under valued and overworked. I would be depressed too if I had to do the things that some of these people have to do and I was working for nothing in return! I mean, these are people giving up their lives to take care of someone else and getting little by the way of thanks from anyone. Most of the time the family members are probably just complaining about the “lack” of work being done when most of these people work themselves tirelessly to take care of the loved one in need.

  • irene robertson

    irene robertson

    September 30th, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    Depression is so common among caregivers as to be expected as par for the course. I’m surprised that having a negative view of yourself being deserving of care would make you less good at caring for another. I’m not sure I understand the correlation there. It’s a tough and often thankless role, that’s for sure.

  • Ben Cronwell

    Ben Cronwell

    September 30th, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    There are social services out there that can help. What stops any caregiver calling upon them for help? You paid your taxes and are entitled to that kind of aid when you need it. Don’t struggle with the caregiving job on your own because you do not have to. Check out your state’s webpage for information or call their Dept of Human Services for help.

  • Clifford Paul

    Clifford Paul

    September 30th, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    @Ben: “What stops any caregiver calling upon them for help?”

    Pride stops them. Some people simply don’t want to admit that they cannot cope alone. It’s up to those around them to convince them there’s no shame in that and to help them find support and/or offer it themselves. Giving a caregiver a couple of hours to call their own can be a huge help.

  • alice franklin

    alice franklin

    September 30th, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    must be so hard to constantly care for someone each and everyday.not only is it depressing because of the attention and effort required on a constant basis but seeing a loved one in the condition,especially when there is no improvement,can really punch the stuffing out of anybody!

  • Frances


    October 1st, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    Aren’t these the people that need to be giving their all?
    Obviously feeling bad about yourself is not going to allow you to do that.
    Maybe that is when it is time to either step aside, or if that is not possible, then at leats ask someone else for help.

  • Lanny


    October 1st, 2011 at 11:41 PM

    If I have an unaddressed problem then I would find it difficult to go about even my daily routine and work would definitely suffer. It’s the same with everybody. And for caregivers it can be even worse simply because there are no holidays from caregiving!

  • Charla


    October 2nd, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    I took care of my grandmother for long time and it wreacked total havoc on my life. While I would not trade that time that I got to spend with her before she died, it took a toll in other places in my life. I was unable to take care of my own family, much less my own needs, because I was so focused on having to constantly be by her side. I felt guilt all the way around, guilt that maybe I had not spent that time with her when she was still healthy and we could have really enjoyed one another. And of course guilt for feeling like my own family was suffering from me not being around too much for them. It is such a hard position to be in and it is hard to understand the strain that this puts you under without having done it yourself.

  • Rosie F.

    Rosie F.

    October 2nd, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    There’s several avenues you can go down to find help and advice, as a friend or as a caregiver, if you look online. The AARP site for example has a subsection devoted to caregivers and caregiving under the Health category. Sometimes knowing you’re not alone in struggling helps too. You do not have to be Superman or Superwoman.

  • rAt


    October 3rd, 2011 at 3:51 AM

    Its bad enough having to take care of someone all the time while even seeing a loved one suffer but add depression to that and it becomes so horrible.When that happens the decrease in caregiving should be the least of the worries!

  • B. Kelly

    B. Kelly

    October 3rd, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    I care for my husband who has Alzheimers and prefer to do most of it by myself. I know he doesn’t like strangers fussing around him and it scares him when he doesn’t recognize who he’s looking at. He’s never been a lover of doctors or hospitals. He doesn’t even know me some days and we’ve been married forty five years.

    I don’t want the help, although realistically I know I may have no choice further down the line. He’s my responsibility, for better or for worse, and I want to keep it that way for as long as we can.

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