Profile of Custodial Grandparents:
Andrea B. Smith
Linda L. Dannison
Western Michigan University
- Over two million children currently live with grandparents in households where no biological parent is present.
- The number of children living in grandparent headed households has increased 66% since 1990 (Childrenís Defense Fund, 1997).
- High rates of grandparent headed families are tied to the "Four D's": drugs, divorce, desertion, and death (Yorkey, 1993).
- Other contributing factors include high rates of adolescent pregnancies (Becklund, 1993), a prison population in which 80% of inmates are parents of dependent children (Barry, Fortier, Smith, & Archibald, 1993), mental illness (Jendrek, 1994), and the increased number of families affected by AIDS (Lee, 1994).
- Grandparents who are raising grandchildren span all ethnic groups and all social and economic levels. Grandparent headed families can be found in large cities, small towns, and rural areas.
- In 1998, 43.6% of all children living in grandparent-maintained families were white, not-Hispanic, 35.9% of all children living in grandparent-maintained families were black, (both Hispanic and not-Hispanic), and 18% of all children living in grandparent-maintained families were Hispanic (all races) (U.S. Census Bureau, 1998).
- The age of custodial grandparents varies greatly. One study (Minkler & Roe, 1993) found that the age of custodial grandparents ranged from 41-47, with a median age of 53.
- Nineteen percent of custodial grandmothers and 15 percent of custodial grandfathers are under the age of 45 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1997).
- Over half of custodial grandparents are caring for two or more young children, and approximately half are grandmothers without partners (Creighton, 1991).
- Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren rarely seek out their new role. They may experience deep feelings of guilt, failure, and embarrassment over their own adult childís inability to successfully assume the role of parent (Dannison, Smith, Dannison, & Nieuwenhuis, 1996).
- Many custodial grandparents, in addition to caring for one or more young children with physical and/or emotional needs, often find themselves in the position of having to provide physical care and emotional support to their own aging parents. The constant challenges associated with this bi-directional nurturance leaves many grandparents emotionally, physically, and financially drained (Smith, Dannison & Vacha-Haase, 1998).
- Children in the care of grandparents are often exceptionally needy, due to a combination of congenital and environmental factors. Many grandparented children have experienced abuse and neglect as a result of living with a drug-involved or otherwise ineffective parent (Churchville, 1984; Minkler & Roe, 1993).
- Grandparented children deal with many troubling emotions. Feelings common to grandparented children include grief and loss, guilt, fear, embarrassment, and anger (Smith, Dannison & Vacha-Haase, 1998).
- One-half of grandchildren living in a grandparentís home in 1997 were under the age of six (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Economic & Statistics Administration, 1997).
- One-third of children in grandparent headed homes were living with grandparents who had not received a high school diploma.Ý Only one-eighth of children living with parents had parents without a high school diploma (U.S. Census Bureau, 1997).
- In 1998, there were over 2.5 million grandparent-headed families with or without parents present. Together, these families cared for over 3.9 million children or 5.6% of all children (U.S. Census Bureau, 1998).
Serving Custodial Grandparent Families Program