Academic journal article Child Welfare

School-Aged Children Living in Grandfamilies: Grandparent Caregiver Confidence in Community Resources Matters

Academic journal article Child Welfare

School-Aged Children Living in Grandfamilies: Grandparent Caregiver Confidence in Community Resources Matters

Article excerpt

Nearly three million grandparents in the United States serve as primary caregivers for their grandchildren with this population increasing each year (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2018). In over 800,000 of these grandfamilies neither of the child's parents reside in the home (Generations United, 2016). Grandparents often emerge as sole care providers for their grandchildren as a consequence of their adult child's incarceration, drug use, refusal to parent, mental illness, or death, to name a few.

To date, there exists ample literature on the characteristics of grandparents in this role. Compared to older adults not providing care for their grandchildren, grandparents raising grandchildren typically have lower income (Generations United, 2017), increasing levels of stress (Musil et al., 2010), may feel shame or isolation from their peers (Jendrek, 1993), report feeling trapped or restricted in their lives (Musil, 1998), or feel they are sacrificing their own health by providing care to their grandchildren (Shakya, Usita, Eisenberg, Weston, & Liles, 2012; see Hayslip & Kaminsi, 2005, for review). Other, more recent reports, demonstrate that grandparents in this role experience feelings of resilience (Hayslip & Smith, 2013; Hayslip et al., 2013), unconditional love (Mokuau et al., 2015), and positive appraisals of caregiving (Smith & Dolbin-MacNab, 2013).

While there is some information about the general well-being of grandchildren being raised by grandparents, there are mixed results depending on the population being examined. On one hand, for many youth in the child welfare system, living with a grandparent can lead to better functional outcomes than living with a nonrelative. Grandparents can provide safety, support, and love to grandchildren who might otherwise have been placed in foster homes (Hayslip & Kaminski, 2005). Others reported grandchildren living with grandparents to have better behavioral, adaptive, and physical health functioning than children living in nonrelative foster homes (Harnett, Dawe, & Russell, 2014; Ziol-Guest & Dunifon, 2014). In contrast, Smith and Palmieri (2007) reported that grandchildren in their grandparents' custody were at greater risk for emotional, social, or behavioral conduct problems than an age-matched sample of children living in the general population. Poorer health also has been reported for children being raised by grandparents than children living with biological married parents (ZoilGuest & Dunifon, 2014). Still, other studies have shown that there is little difference between youth raised by grandparents and youth raised in two-parent households (Solomon & Marx, 1995), with the exception of facing difficulties in their educational functioning (Edwards, 2003; Solomon & Marx, 1995).

Grandparent behavior can impact the well-being of the children they are raising. Only one study (Smith & Dolbin-MacNab, 2013) focused on this and found that grandparents with poor parenting behaviors also reported negative emotional and behavioral issues for their grandchildren. Despite this finding, no further research exists to explain the influence of grandparent factors on child well being. This gap in the literature highlights the need for further exploration of the complex nature of children being raised by grandparents.

One way for grandchildren being raised by grandparents to experience positive outcomes is through grandparental utilization of support services in the community. Broadly, community support services include informal and formal support. Informal support is defined as unpaid assistance received from friends or family, whereas formal support is defined as paid services delivered by professional care providers (Lyons & Zarit, 1999). Formal services that grandparents raising grandchildren may utilize include parental support groups, educational workshops, family physician assistance, early childhood programs, school day care or respite programs, counseling services, legal help, or, in some cases, services provided by foster agencies (Generations United, 2017; Yancura, 2013). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.