08.02.03. What are the social norms and traditions of family care? Are there gender roles associated with family care? | New Zealand

08.02.03. What are the social norms and traditions of family care? Are there gender roles associated with family care? | New Zealand

18 Sep 2022

NZ is a multicultural country so social norms and traditions tend to vary between the different ethnic groups. As already outlined in part 8, those providing care are predominantly female.

The LiLACS NZ study, a longitudinal study of Māori and Non-Māori New Zealanders of advanced age, interviewed primary carers of participants about aspects of caregiving (Lapsley et al., 2020). Their findings included:

  • Carers were more often women, particularly female spouses (because of their longevity and usually younger age), and children (because sex role conventions make it more likely that women will care for parents and parents-in-law).
  • Males were cared for over a longer period and receiving more hours of care overall.
  • Compared to Non-Māori, Māori received more hours of informal care and their carers were younger, more likely to be offspring, more likely to live in the same household and more likely to be of different ethnicity.

Those from Pacific cultures feel an obligation and responsibility to care for their elderly at home (Tamasese et al., 2014) and this is reflected in the lower proportion of Pacific people in aged residential care. An excerpt from Pacific Perspectives on Ageing in New Zealand highlights some of the challenges faced:

“What both the Elders and the younger people agreed on was that the care of Elders was simpler, supported, and possible within a communal village context. The Elders said that if they were carrying out the same responsibility at home in the Pacific the village structure would support the care of Elders better than the nuclear household living arrangements of New Zealand. In the New Zealand context if each household or family is caring for their own Elders, the pressures grow if there are inadequate familial, government or community supports” (Tamasese et al., 2014).


Lapsley H., Hayman K. J., Muru-Lanning M. L., S. A. Moyes, Keeling S., Edlin R., et al. (2020). Caregiving, ethnicity, and gender in Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders of advanced age: Findings from LiLACS NZ Kaiawhina (Love and Support) study. Australas J Ageing. 39(1):e1-e8. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajag.12671.

Tamasese K, Parsons L, Waldergrave C. (2014). Pacifc perspectives on ageing in New Zealand Wellington The Family Centre. Available from: https://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/fms/Colleges/College%20of%20Humanities%20and%20Social%20Sciences/Psychology/HART/publications/reports/Pacific_Elders_NZLSA_2014.pdf?6A68389EA6EAB37148E4AE22BA963822.