Who’s Taking Care of the Kids? Often It’s Grandma; Grandpa, Too

July 27, 2004

Washington, DC – Finding convenient, trustworthy, affordable child care presents a challenge for many parents, but some parents seem to find a relatively easy solution:  their own parents.

A new research brief – Grandma and Grandpa Taking Care of the Kids: Patterns of Involvement – published by Child Trends shows that close to half (47 percent) of grandparents with young children living nearby report providing some type of child care assistance to their adult children. And though grandmothers are more likely (54 percent) to provide this care, roughly one-third (38 percent) of grandfathers do so as well.

“The fact that so many grandparents provide some type of child care to their grandchildren is a strong marker of the lifelong patterns of support between parents, children and grandchildren,” says Lina Guzman, a research associate at Child Trends who authored the brief. “This pattern of strong intergenerational ties is in keeping with a growing body of research documenting the positive side of American family life,” adds Kristin A. Moore, president and senior scholar at Child Trends. “Unfortunately, this positive side is often underreported or ignored.”

The brief presents a statistical snapshot of grandparental child care in American families, including who provides this care, what type and how much is provided, and what some of the financial benefits of such care are. Among the specific findings:

  • Among grandparents with young grandchildren living nearby, those who provide care are spending a considerable amount of time providing child care for their grandkids – an average of 23 hours a week.
  • Employed grandparents are more likely to provide this care than grandparents who do not work or are retired – 54 percent versus 42 percent, respectively – indicating that many grandparents appear to be juggling both work and child care responsibilities.
  • Almost one in five families pay grandparents for the care they provide their young grandchildren.

The brief is based on analyses of two large national surveys, the National Survey of Families and Households and the 2001 National Household Education Survey.

Child Trends, founded in 1979, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by conducting research and providing science-based information to the public and decision-makers.