Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren

What Do We Know?

Published in: Journal of Family Issues, v. 20, no. 2, Mar. 1999, p. 218-242

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1999

by Anne R. Pebley, L. L. Rudkin

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Approximately 5% to 6% of grandchildren and 10% of grandparents live in grandparent-grandchild households at any point in time. The proportion of children living with grandparents appears to have remained relatively stable over time. In this article, the authors critically review previous research on the determinants of grandparent care for grandchildren. This research suggests that grandparent care generally is precipitated by need or problems experienced by parents. However, the determinants of custodial care (in which grandparents become sole caretakers) and of coresidence (three-generation households) are quite different. Custodial care generally occurs when parents are no longer able or willing to take care of their children. Coresidence more commonly is associated with the middle generation's problems with living independently or with transition among roles.

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