As the number of children living with grandparents has risen in recent decades, the profile of caregiver grandparents has also evolved into a more diverse tapestry, with grandparents filling in the gaps in increasingly nontraditional family structures, according to a new study funded by Brown University and the Russell Sage Foundation, a New York-based social science research center.
In particular, as rates rise for divorce and remarriage, single parenting, and other nontraditional family structures, older Americans have been stepping in to help their offspring with childcare.
Across the United States, nearly 7.8 million children are living in homes with grandparents present, 4.9 million live in grandparent-headed households and 2.6 million live in homes where the grandparents say they are the primary caregivers, said Amy Goyer, AARP’s expert on multigenerational and family issues, adding that 1 million children living with a grandparent do not have either parent in the house at all.
“We saw a big uptick with the recession, because grandparents have always been a safety net,” Goyer said, adding that nearly 20 percent of grandparents with grandchildren in the house are living in poverty.
High rates of divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation and childbearing outside marriage weaken families bonds, including intergenerational relations , the report said, noting that such circumstances are most prevalent among poorer, less-educated families.
At the same time, remarried parents and divorced fathers are less likely to help their adult children financially; women tend to have closer ties to their grandchildren than men do. Almost one-third of grandmothers who live with their grandchildren are the primary caregivers, the report said.
African American and Hispanic grandmothers are more likely than white grandmothers to live with grandchildren, and African American grandmothers are more likely than Hispanic grandmothers to be the primary caregivers, the report found.