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Moving Beyond Self-InterestPerspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and the Social Sciences$
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Stephanie L. Brown, R. Michael Brown, and Louis A. Penner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388107.001.0001

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Egosystem and EcosystemMotivational Perspectives on Caregiving

Egosystem and EcosystemMotivational Perspectives on Caregiving

13 Egosystem and EcosystemMotivational Perspectives on Caregiving
Moving Beyond Self-Interest

Jennifer Crocker

Amy Canevello

Oxford University Press

In this essay, we consider the motivations people have for caregiving, and the consequences of these motivations for the self and others. We argue that there are at least two fundamentally different views, or motivational perspectives, that people can have about caregiving. Caregiving in the egosystem is viewed as a means for people to satisfy their own needs and desires; although their behavior may appear selfless or self-sacrificing, they provide care because of what they will obtain, or what it means about them. In contrast, caregiving in the ecosystem results from genuine concern for the well-being of others; although such caregiving often has benefits for the self, those benefits are not the primary reasons why people provide care. These two motivational perspectives on caregiving have paradoxical effects; we describe evidence that caregiving in the egosystem, which aims to obtain benefits for the self, actually undermines the support the caregiver receives from others, undermines relationship quality, decreases the caregiver’s self-esteem and mental health, and even decreases the regard the care recipient has for the caregiver. Because caregivers often are unaware of these paradoxical effects, when they feel that their needs are not being met, they can persist with giving care in the egosystem, creating just the opposite of what they really want. In contrast, caregiving in the ecosystem, actually does benefit the self, in the form of increased support received from others, increased self-esteem and mental health in the caregiver, and increased regard the recipient has for the caregiver.

Keywords:   motivation, caregiving, ecosystem, egosystem, relationship, self esteem

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