Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Science


caregivers, elder abuse, Gerontology, mental health, neglect, nursing


This study was designed to examine the phenomena of mood disturbance and associated potential to abuse in an elderly caregiver population. The data from which the results were obtained came from structured interviews, using quantitative measures, with 110 men and women caregivers aged 55 and over, living at home and caring for another physically or mentally ill elder (usually a spouse or other relative) who was living with them. A causal model was developed to examine the effects of locus of control, social support, physical health, stress perception, and coping efficacy on total mood disturbance and potential to abuse. Standardized instruments were used to measure all variables except potential to abuse, for the operationalization of which an instrument was devised based on the newly-emerging theory of risk factors for elder abuse and neglect. Results indicated that the predictors for mood disturbance, accounting for 45% of the variance in that variable, were a low level of social support, poor physical health, stress perception, and coping by self blame. However, there were seven predictors of potential to abuse, including total mood disturbance. The other six were an external locus of control orientation, a low level of social support, coping by using fantasy, income inadequacy, poor physical health, and coping by self blame. In the case of potential to abuse, however, the two latter predictors were inversely related to that criterion variable. These seven variables accounted for 46% of the variance in potential to abuse. Contrary to conventional wisdom, stress perception did not figure in the potential to abuse picture with this subject group, and coping efficacy was not prominent. The utility of the revised model lies in its ability to predict the occurrence of abuse or neglect of the elderly when the risk factors are present, and thereby to institute nursing interventions with one or more variables in the model to change that outcome. The potential to abuse tool now has psychometric properties which will render it useful in assessment of the caregiving situation before abuse occurs. Study results can also be used to support proposed changes in health care policy.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons