This study aims to explore the paradoxical relationship between the significance of the human-centered focus of senior care workers and the bureaucratic and market-oriented structures in which they are embedded. Emotional labor and bodywork are the backbone of a human-centered quality care system. These forms of labor are recognized and rewarded on a personal, administrative, and social level through reciprocity. These non-marketed modes of exchange and relationship building represent a fundamental motive of care work. However, professional reciprocity analyzed how deliberate and skilled relational work can be recognized as a skill for institutional care workers that could be measured and trained. This research further examined whether or not professional reciprocity validated the necessity for greater tangible recognition and remuneration for care work, or played into the gendered discourse of care work as women’s work purely motivated by its intrinsic rewards and not deserving of extrinsic validation. These theories were tested in a three-month case study at a local for-profit senior living facility, through nine, one hour or longer interviews along with thirty hours of participant observation. Ultimately, care work requires that administrators have a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of the necessary skills, and support those skills through a stronger partnership between professional reciprocity and greater extrinsic recognition.


McConnell, David


Sociology and Anthropology


care work, reciprocity, relationships, privatized, senior living

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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