Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology


Using a constructivist framework, ideas about healthy and unhealthy caring, from a number of populations, were drawn together and applied to carers of the aged. It was acknowledged that the ongoing decline displayed by the elder constantly threatens the carer's core needs and values (see: Braithwaite, 1992) thus necessitating reconstruing by the carer (Kelly, 1955). In this study the relationship between the carer's self-determined style of approaching or avoiding reconstruing (Berzonsky,1990, 1992b) and tendency to relate through the caring role, a concept taken from codependency theory, (Whitefield, 1991), were studied in terms of their ability to determine the level of burden experienced by the carer, tendency to use and be satisfied with community services and the presence of codependency issues.

Differences in self-determined construing style were identified and service use could be predicted in terms of this. However, construing style type did not predict satisfaction with services or codependency issues. It was also found that carers who form serial caregiving relationships, reported more frequently that they descended from a disrupted family of origin and, when caring, engaged in a broader range of negative caring behaviours, while experiencing the same level of burden and using more community services, than did people caring for the first time. This was taken as support for a codependency model of the carer. However, it was felt that, with improved measurement, the constructivist model would have greater future research utility.