Issues of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
This paper explores research regarding the impacts on grandparents and grandchildren when the grandparent assumes the parental role because of some type of parental fall through. The articles find that the financial aspect of raising grandchildren in your later years is quite costly as well is the negative health problems the stress of the situation can cause. This paper mainly looks at Baldock's (2007) research on the affects of every aspect of the new situation on the grandparents and grandchildren. Baldock (2007) and the other research used for this paper all suggest that there are multiple struggles that the grandparents will endure when raising their grandchildren.
Issues of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
The cliché life of a grandparent is usually thought of as taking the grandchildren to the zoo, baking cookies, and making crafts. Grandparents are also around to share their wisdom and experiences with the younger generation, however in today's society the amount of grandparents having to take in their grandchildren due to an issue in the biological parents' lives has been on the increase for years (Baldock, 2007, p. 70). This change of role for the grandparents can have various affects on not only the grandparents but the grandchildren as well. There are many reasons as to why grandparents come into the situation where they need to take their grandchildren into their care such as teenage pregnancy, parental abuse, and parental drug and alcohol abuse. No matter how the grandparents come into obtaining their grandchildren each family have their own types of struggles they will have to deal with. Both the grandparents and grandchildren can go through multiple financial, health, and behavioral issues that can either bring the family out on top or hurt them, but many are choosing to overcome the difficulties and persevere through them. Literature Review
There are many troubles in today's society with drugs, alcohol, and violence, all which are just a few of the reasons that many parents become unable to properly care for their children. These and many other circumstances are which have led to “approximately 2.4 million grandparents [being] responsible for raising their grandchildren, many in households without the parents present.” (Poehlmann et al., 2008, 165) The decision to undertake the responsibility of raising your grandchildren is a big one to make, however many times there is no decision to make because the children would end up in the foster care system if it weren't for the grandparents. In a study completed in Australia about grandparent run homes, “of the 31,000 children living with their grandparents, 28,700 children's biological parents lived elsewhere.” (Baldock, 2007, p. 71) This can make the strain of raising your grandchild even more difficult because of the emotional and financial burdens it may cause. Health Quality of Custodial Grandparents
There have been various studies in which they have found that grandparents who take care of their grandchildren have mental and physical aspects of themselves that are in a disarray (Neely-Barnes, Graft, & Washington, 2010, p. 87). The role of being a custodial grandparent is difficult not only because it is a new situation which they need to adjust to, but it can also cause physical and mental problems. The situation cause a lot of new emotions and stressors that “numerous studies have documented elevated rates of depression, parenting stress, health problem, and economic hardship among custodial grandparents.” (Poehlmann et al., 2008, p. 168) Many grandparents are well in their sixty's and so “when the children arrive, grandparents are unlikely to be prepared for the dramatic and often sudden changes caused by unplanned parenthood.” (Baldock, 2007, p. 73) The grandparents generally see an increase in health related problems because they are put into a situation where they need to focus on the care of their grandchildren which leads to the grandparents' health and well-being coming second and in which “custodial grandparents report worse self-assessed health than noncaregiving grandparents, particularly in the areas of physical functioning, bodily pain, role functioning, social functioning, and general health perception.” (Neely-Barnes et al., 2010, p. 88) Not only are the grandparents not being able to properly maintain their own health, but “among custodial grandparents, higher levels of depression have been found among unmarried grandparents who were not working.” (p. 88) This new parenting role that the grandparents are put into also effects their social life; “in one study, half of custodial grandparents reported that they felt isolated from friends in their age group due to their caregiving responsibilities.” (p. 88) Grandparents usually feel worn out by the amount of extra responsibilities they have come to take on which can make them feel worried when they think about having many more years of having to take care of their grandchildren. This type of constant worrying and stress can become quite a negative thing both for the grandparent and grandchild because “grandparents who are stressed are more likely to become depressed.” (Baldock, 2007, p. 73) Financials
When grandparents are put into the situation of bringing their grandchildren into their care, one of the most difficult issues they have to deal with is the financial aspect of raising the children. The financial aspect of raising the grandchildren can be so hard to handle because many of the grandparents are older and even retired which means limited income. “In around one third of grandparent families (34%), one of both grandparents were employed, while 62% received a government pension, allowance or other benefit as their primary income.” (Baldock, 2007, p. 71) Children are expensive to raise because of the extra clothing, food, and home resources that are used. The grandparents are used to and comfortable with their current lifestyle and then when the unexpected young grandchildren are brought into the picture this can make the once sufficient income turn into financial instability.
Grandparents going through legal proceedings can also be another reason finances are put into a bind when the need to take in your grandchildren is needed because “grandparents are commonly ineligible for legal aid and consequently face disadvantage in proceedings” (Baldock, 2007, p. 72). One way that is used to try to gain some type of extra income for the grandchildren is by “formalising their parenting role through legal proceedings [which] can be the only way grandparents are able to access financial support.” (p. 72) The cost of providing for their grandchildren and all of the court related procedures needed to be done becomes such a burden that “some grandparents have mortgaged their homes to undertake legal proceedings.” (p. 72) Impacts on the Family
The result of custodial grandparents not only effects just the grandparents and grandchildren, but the whole family. The strain of raising grandchildren can be felt in the children of the grandparents “some felt resentful that their parent's energy was going into raising their grandchildren and their own children missed out on a relationship with their grandparents.” (Baldock, 2007, p. 72) In many families the reason that the grandparents need to raise their grandchildren is due to some type of addiction from the birth parents. This drug use can cause emotional and social problems in the grandparents and grandchildren which can make the “grandparents...feel blamed or express a sense of responsibility for their own children's drug use.”(p. 73) Grandparents often feel as though there was something they could have done to prevent their children's drug abuse which in turn would have prevented the need for them to raise their grandchildren. This feeling of “blame and shame exacerbate social isolation and increase psychological anxiety experienced by grandparents and their grandchildren.” (p. 73)
The effects on the grandchildren of not having their parent or parents around is difficult to for them to cope with because “children separated from their parents because of alcohol and other drugs frequently face psychological, emotional and sometimes physical problems.” (Baldock, 2007, p. 71) According to Day and Bazemore (2011:
children living without their biological parents typically present with high rates of psychological problems. Yet, by comparison, adolescents living with grandparent caregivers have the lowest levels of both 'internalizing problems' (i.e. depressive symptoms, negative outlook, low self-esteem), and 'externalizing problems' (i.e. nonviolent delinquency, general violent tendencies, and substance abuse.” (p. 103) Position
I have first hand experience in the struggles and issues that can arise from a grandparent having to put their lives on hold and take in their grandchildren in order to provide them a loving and stable home. My parents are currently in the process of adopting my two nephews whom they, as well as myself, have taken care of since they were born. My sister is in a rehabilitation program in Northern New Jersey for addiction to pills, cocaine, and heroin and has been in and out of trouble since her early teens. Growing up the way I did because of the situations and conditions that my sister made my family endure has shown me just how difficult and numerous the issues are when raising your grandchildren.
My mother is sixty years old and my father is sixty-two, both having some health problems. Health problems associated with age can have a significant affect on how the grandparents are going to be able to act in their new role as caregivers because many grandparents are older and their health is declining. Taking care of a six and a nine year old can be mentally and physically exhausting. My nephews have many psychological issues because their mother is gone and father is hardly around, these emotional troubles of my nephews also effect me and parents too. My nephews have ADHD and are quite sensitive which makes it even more difficult to calm them down if they are feeling upset or angry because they are missing their mother. I find the emotional impact it has on the children and family to be the greatest because of my experience in knowing how difficult is to cope with the entire situation.
The financial responsibility for taking grandchildren in can be quite detrimental to the grandparents because many are retired or only working part-time in order to make a little extra money. My father is retired which has made the raising of two new children quite difficult before they received any assistance from the state. While most families receive financial assistance through state and federal aid, there may be certain circumstances in which a family has to come up with the money themselves. Grandparents know how expensive children are because of their past experience in raising their own children, however times have changed and the cost of raising children has significantly increased. This financial burden put onto the grandparents is not a choice they make, but rather something they just have to endure because there is no other option for the grandchildren. Afterthoughts
It is obvious that grandparents who have to bring their grandchildren into their home and raise them because of varying circumstances will inevitably face numerous amount of hardships and issues. The grandparents being older makes the task of raising their grandchildren difficult, along with the cost involved in raising them and the legal proceedings that are done in order to protect the children. While the hardships of custodial grandparents is plenty, many “who have attended support groups say that it has made a positive difference in their lives” (Baldock, 2007, p.73), which can help them to cope with the new situations they are being placed in. Even though raising grandchildren comes with multiple and varying issues that make it difficult to do, “grandparents who are raising their grandchildren consistently report that the experience adds joy and meaning to their lives and provides them with companionship and a purposeful social and familial role.” (Kropf & Burnette, 2003, p. 363)
Baldock, E. (2007). Grandparents raising grandchildren because of alcohol and other drug issues. Family Matters, (76), 70-74. Day, S. E., & Bazemore, G. (2011). Two Generations at Risk: Child Welfare, Institutional Boundaries, and Family Violence in Grandparent Homes. Child Welfare, 90(4), 99-116. Kropf, N. P., & Burnette, D. (2003). GRANDPARENTS AS FAMILY CAREGIVERS: LESSONS FOR INTERGENERATIONAL EDUCATION. Educational Gerontology, 29(4), 361. Neely-Barnes, S. L., Graft, J., & Washington, G. (2010). The Health-Related Quality of Life of Custodial Grandparents. Health & Social Work, 35(2), 87-97. Poehlmann, J., Park, J., Bouffiou, L., Abrahams, J., Shlafer, R., & Hahn, E. (2008). Representations of family relationships in children living with custodial grandparents. Attachment & Human Development, 10(2), 165-188. doi:10.1080/14616730802113695