The Babysitter as Family Member or Employee?: A Unique Case of Altercasting
Presented at the Spring 2015 Student Research Day at Chapman University.
The role played by the babysitter is unique in that it involves intimacy and parenting, but in the context of employment. While some families expect that the babysitter maintain a professional and rather distanced role from the family, others begin to act toward the babysitter as a family member. Altercasting, first described by Eugene Weinstein and Paul Deutschberger in 1963, is the projection of an identity onto an individual that is congruent with one’s own goals. The subject casting the identity is the altercaster, while the subject receiving the identity is the altercastee. The altercaster is often in a position of power over the altercastee, whether it be through structural authority, manipulation or emotional control. While conducting field research as a babysitter, I observed that both the parents and children use these techniques to place the babysitter into a position that identifies them either as an employee or family member. The babysitter is then forced to manage these various identities placed upon her. This research reveals that the babysitter handles her identity in one of three ways, to accept whatever role she is given, maintain control through insisting she is only an employee, or to terminate employment with a certain family.