Study: Elders' Race a Factor in Child Care

Study: Elders' Race a Factor in Child Care

Researchers find black grandmothers less burdened by role as primary caregivers

Black grandmothers who are primary caregivers for grandchildren find the role less psychologically burdensome than white counterparts, according to a recent study of American grandmothers by researchers at Boston College.

Rachel A. Pruchno
(Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
The study by Initiatives On Aging Director Rachel A. Pruchno and project director Dorothy McKenney, published in the September issue of Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, examined the psychological well-being of 867 grandmothers raising grandchildren in households that did not include either of the grandchild's parents.

"As the number of grandmothers who are living with and raising grandchildren in households that do not include either of the grandchild's parents continues to rise, it is imperative that we increase our understanding of the effects that this experience has on their psychological wellbeing," the authors write.

"Coming at a time in their lives when many women hoped to be planning for their own retirement and reaping the rewards of a lifetime of responsibilities, more and more women find themselves faced with the demands of an often unexpected, newfound parenthood."

In 2000, 6.3 percent of children in the United States were reported to be living with a grandparent, and 8.6 percent of all households in the United States featured grandparent caregivers.

According to Pruchno, 9.2 percent of black children and 2.3 percent of white children in the United States are being raised by a grandmother.

The study found "quality of relationship with [the] grandchild's parents is significantly related to care-giving satisfaction for the white grandmothers, but this relationship is not significant for the black grandmothers." Family dynamics and the relationship with the grandchild's parents may be important in understanding the care-giving experiences of white grandmothers, according to the authors.

Race was found to be a factor in both care-giving experience and psychological wellbeing. Historically, black and white grandmothers have played different roles within families, with black grandmothers playing a more central role in holding kin networks together, and less likely than white grandmothers to embrace norms of noninterference, the researchers observed.

The study also found similarities in the experiences of black and white grandmothers, notably in grandchild behavior problems, levels of help grandmothers provide, health, life satisfaction, and depression.

The Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences is a refereed publication of the Gerontological Society of America, the national organization of professionals in the field of aging.

-Mark Sullivan


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