This research addressed the dynamics of filial care to elderly people in the format of care receipt, care provision and their links with official welfare and has been organised around three substantive gaps in the caregiving literature: a lack of knowledge pertaining to the experiences, understandings and preferences of elderly care recipients; the absence of a family unit perspective which catalogues different relatives' caring contributions and charts interpretations of, and reactions to, diverse caregiving practices; and a dearth of data which examine the character and effectiveness of interaction between the provision of family and domiciliary care at the site of care delivery.
he research revealed disjunctures between the objective measurement of functional impairment and elderl y participants' continuing abilities and subjective identification of care needs. Such di sjunctures stress that elderly people's care needs can be neither standardised nor objectivised but understood only via reference to the structural, affectual and ideological antecedents which characterise elderly peoples' experiences of family care. The idiosyncrasy and volatility of these antecedents, and their impact upon the provision of family care, highlighted the significance of critical review of the orthodoxy surrounding "unshared" family care. While primary filial carer status was not repudiated by either respondent group, second filial carers were frequently accorded a significance that was di sproportionate to the level of their care contributions. From the care recipient perspective for instance, presentation of the unequal distribution of care among their adult children was tempered by the rationales provided by way of explanation, even mitigation, as to why care was unequally shared. These rationales highlighted in unequal measure not only the commonality of the twin axioms of care, but also their independence: elderly participants' appreciation of the labour involved in the provision of filial care and acknowledgement of the unequal load carried by di fferent adult children resulted in remarkably parallel appreciation of the emotion of care they attributed to each of their children.
Finally, while family care is accredited as the fulcrum of community care policy and practice, links with official welfare were organised around front-line domiciliary carers rather than management; and even here any links were more haphazard than pre-planned. Rather than family care constituting the context for formal care and official decisions about the allocation of domiciliary services, the data revealed an inverse relationship whereby family carers more commonly reacted to the context set by formal welfare in the form of service types and levels and changes in allocation patterns. Results also confirmed however that respondents' understanding of formal domic!liary services mirrored those they attached to family care and their personal lexicon added substance to demands for the dismantlement of artificial boundaries between the conceptualisation of the two sources of support.