Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Child raising toughest on young grandmothers


Age may work in reverse when it comes to raising grandchildren, suggests a University of Florida study that finds younger grandmothers in this role are depressed more often than their older counterparts.

"Unlike older grandparents who are frequently retired, middle-aged grandparents face problems trying to balance their newfound parenting roles with other responsibilities, including the demands of careers and personal interests," said Terry Mills, a UF sociologist who did the study, which appeared in the April issue of the journal Marriage and Family Review.

Mills examined psychological distress in households where grandparents are raising grandchildren, with no biological parent present – so called "skipped-generation families." He used data from the 1999 National Survey of America’s Families, a sample representing 430,018 grandmothers between the ages of 32 and 71, which was collected by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute.

The older the grandmothers were, the study found, the less likely they were to experience symptoms of depression, the study found.

"Skipped-generation families," a term coined in 1997, are growing because of a variety of social problems, Mills said. These include an increase in drug abuse, teen pregnancy, divorce, AIDS and the number of parents being imprisoned, he said.

"Some historians might point out that in more traditional agrarian times it was not unusual to have multigenerational families, such as those seen on ’Little House on the Prairie,’" he said. "But ’skipped-generation households’ are a 21st-century problem."

U.S. Census data show nearly 8 percent of all children under age 18 (5.5 million) currently live in homes with grandparents, Mills said. Of these, 1.3 million are grandparent-headed households, with roughly half the children in such families under age 6, he said.

In the United States, the largest percentage of children living in a grandparent-headed household are black, Mills said. Other research has found that black grandparents acting as parents are more likely than their white counterparts to be unemployed, live below the poverty line and have larger numbers of grandchildren to care for, he said.

"Such grandmothers are not all alike, and Dr. Mills’ work shows that younger grandmothers raising grandchildren are more susceptible to depression," said Richard K. Caputo, professor of social policy and research at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

In Mills’ study, grandmothers were asked how much of the time during the past month they felt nervous, downhearted or calm and peaceful, as well as how frequently they were happy or could not be cheered up. Each item was measured on a scale that ranged from "all of the time" to "none of the time."

"One reason for a grandmother’s emotional distress may be her sense of failure as a parent," Mills said. "She may feel, ’I’m having to do this because my own son or daughter could not care for their child.’"

Many re-enter the parenting role when their parenting skills are rusty, and some find it difficult to resolve the issues of whether they are a parent or a grandparent, he said.

The study found that besides being younger, grandmothers who experienced the most frequent feelings of psychological distress were those who were black and lived in the Midwest, had a family income below the poverty level, were on welfare, did not receive social service payments for child care and had a regular place for child care.

"It’s not surprising that having a family income below the poverty level or not receiving welfare payments for child care were associated with more frequent feelings of emotional distress," Mills said. "One serious consequence of becoming a custodial grandparent is a change for the worse in the grandparent’s financial status."

"A grandmother may want to work rather than receive welfare, but for those without a husband or partner who could help with child care, it might be difficult to manage," he said.

He suggests that federal policies limiting welfare benefits and providing little assistance to skipped-generation grandparents should be revised to contribute more support for the valuable role they play.

"I don’t think society is aware of the public service these grandparents provide in struggling to keep families intact instead of just shipping the children off to foster care," he said. "Yet foster parents get a lot more money and support in terms of social assistance than these kinds of caregivers do."

Terry Mills | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>