Study Finds More Grandparents Are Raising Grandchildren

July 26, 2011  |  

By Charlotte Young

Finding situations where grandparents must raise their grandchildren as their own is nothing new, but USA Today reports that it’s happening to grandparents now more than ever before.

Census data last month revealed that in 2009, 3.1 million children in the US were living without a parent present in the household. Fifty nine percent of that number were living with grandparents. The reasons why grandparents find themselves filling in for their children vary from physical or mental problems, financial problems, incarceration, drug use and death. Military deployment and the recession are now proving to be part of the problem as well.

With more grandparents taking care of young children again, research defines them as the “skip generation” household or “grandfamilies.” For these grandfamilies, life can get very difficult as grandparents try to relate to their grandchildren with the ever changing presence of technology and culture.

Experts say grandparents deal with feelings of loss for independence and roles while the children they must now raise deal with the loss of their parents. For grandparents that find themselves struggling to deal with their new realities, support groups are available to help grandparents deal with changing roles.

“People like me need someplace they can go and be with other people who are in the same situation,” grandmother Joyce Sylvia, 69, told USA Today. “We tell each other stories to help us get through it…Sixty is not when you want to be taking care of kids.”

There are also mixed emotions. Grandparents find themselves proud of their grandchildren, but angry and critical of their own children. They worry about both generations and wonder whether they will be there to raise and protect the young ones. Research shows that grandparents that raise grandchildren have more physical disability and depression than grandparents who are not raising kids.

Above all, grandparents want to make sure they stay a family. There is the desire to make sure the young children aren’t taken away to foster care or adoption. Grandparents often find themselves obligated to take care of more than one grandchild, in efforts to keep them together.

But no matter the stresses and complications, Esme Fuller-Thomson, a professor of social work at the University of Toronto, notes one constant pattern across groups.

“It seems that grandparents will step forward no matter what their personal sacrifices to take care of these children,” she said.

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