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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Trends and Concerns

Mary Gosche, Mary Engram, Phyllis Flanigan, Human Development Specialists, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension


Most grandparents that I know, think that their grandchildren are really “grand”. Grandparents have the freedom to love the child and then the child goes back to the parent for discipline and care. However, their has been a trend of more grandparents raising their grandchildren. According to the 2000 Census, over 2.4 million grandparents were the primary caregiver of the grandchild.


Grandparent caregivers can be divided into three different categories:


  1. Grandparents with a legal or formal relationship have gone to court and have acquired the legal relationship through adoption, guardianship, or custody.
  2. Grandparents without legal relationships (informal) are providing the basic needs of the child but are not recognized by the court as having any legal rights.
  3. Kith and kin child care refers to a grandparent who provides care on a regular basis in the place of child care or babysitter.

This article will concentrate on the trends and concerns of the top two types of grandparents, those who are raising their grandchildren or kin because the parents are no longer able to take responsibility for the child.

There has been a 70% increase in children living with grandparent-headed households between 1980 and 1994. The reasons why there are more caregiving grandparents are: child abuse, child neglect, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and parental imprisonment.


  • The majority (73%) of the children living with their grandparents are over 6 years of age.
  • The majority of grandparents responsible for the care of their grandchildren are female (63%).
  • There has been a 51% increase in the last 13 years of the number of grand-children living with their grandparents with no parent present.

There are benefits for grandparents and grandchildren in this situation. The grandparent-headed home may be safer and may provide a more stable environment. Even though their lives are more stressful, grandparents report it as a satisfying experience.



  • Poverty - grandchildren living only with a grandmother are more likely to be in poverty.
  • Health - pre-existing conditions like diabetes become more severe. Custodial grandparents report that their health is very poor to fair and report having problems in daily living activities.
  • Utilizing of community services - many grandparents are unaware of community resources or they feel uncomfortable in receiving public assistance. In some instances, child welfare workers were not aware that grandparents raising grandchildren may be eligible for financial assistance.


Grandparents raising grandchildren are especially in need of support. Research has shown that grandparents who joined a support group had a decrease in depression, increased feeling of empowerment, and increased caregiving mastery. Support groups provide both practical information and emotional support. Consider joining a support group or encouraging a friend who is a grandparent raising a grandchild to join one.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ideas. We’ve had some huge issues with school this year that were totally overwhelming for the boys and me. And when you go to these groups, if you need to cry, you can cry. But I’ve gotten a lot of good ideas, too.”


Contact University of Missouri Extension offices for information on support groups: Jackson, MO-573-243-3581, Poplar Bluff-573-686-8064, and Charleston-573-6836129.





Brintnall-Peterson, M & Targ, D.B. (2005). Current Trends, Issues and Concerns of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Grandchild. Retrieved from



Last Updated 05/28/2009


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