In 2005 there were 712,000 unmarried grandparents who were caregivers for their grandchildren according to the U.S. Census Bureau They comprised nearly three in 10 grandparents who were responsible for their grandchildren. (Source: 2005 American Community Survey). In total in the United States more than six million children are being raised in their grandparent’s homes.
A large increase in grand-kids living with grandparents
Researchers, public policy makers and the media first began to notice the huge increases in grandparent maintained households around 1990, prompting them to question why this was happening. Several reasons have been offered for the dramatic increases in grandparents raising and helping to raise their grandchildren.
- Increasing drug abuse among parents
- teen pregnancy
- the rapid rise of single parent households
- mental and physical illnesses
- child abuse and neglect
are a few of the most common explanations offered.
About twice as many grandmothers than grandfathers provide care for their grandchildren
2.4 million grandparents are responsible for most of the basic needs (i.e., food, shelter, clothing) of one or more of the grandchildren who live with them. These grandparents represent about 42 percent of all grandparents whose grandchildren live with them. Of these , 1.5 million are grandmothers and 880,000 are grandfathers.
Factors that affect the level of care a grandparent provides a grandchild
Children who grew up in cohesive families with affectionate parents exhibit stronger feelings of obligation as mature adults when they take on the grandparent role. Childhood experiences with grandparents also influence how grandparents interact with their own grandchildren. Research has also shown that relations between grandchildren and grandparents depend on current relations between grandchildren and their parents, and more importantly, on relations between their parents and grandparents.
Poverty is a significant issue for these grandparents and grand-kids
Overall, 27 percent of children living in homes with their grandparents are in poverty. Almost two-thirds of children living with their grandmother only are in poverty. In contrast, 19 percent of children living in homes maintained by their parents are in poverty. In addition, the vast majority of grandparents who provide homes for their grandchildren are women, and grandmothers are more economically disadvantaged than grandfathers.
Grandparents differ from other adults caring for children. They are often retired or planning retirement, and, compared with younger parents, on average have lower financial resources and less physical stamina. They may face difficulties resuming parenting at an older age, difficulties accessing assistance, or legal costs. This situation, combined with their own ageing, can result in unexpected social, financial, and health problems.
If you are in the U.S., AARP provides fact sheets for each state showing the statistics for that state and providing resources for grandparents looking after grandchildren.
Countries other than the U.S.
For those living in other countries, data is harder to find. Estimates of about 1% of all grandparents have grandchildren living with them for Canada and the U.K.
Grandparents taking care of grandchildren in Australia
For Australia inn 2003, there were 22,500 families in which grandparents were the guardians of their grandchildren (31,100 children aged 0-17 years). Similar to the U.S., almost half (47%) of grandparent families were single grandparent families and most single grandparents (93%) were grandmothers caring for grandchildren alone.
Again income is a major issue with one or both grandparents employed in only one third (34%) of grandparent families. In keeping with this, around two-thirds (63%) of grandparent families relied on a government pension, benefit or allowance as their main source of income. (Council on the Ageing (COTA) National Seniors 2003, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren)