Standing in the Breach: Psychosocial Challenges Facing Grandparents Assuming the Care of Minor Grandchildren

During the past three decades, the number of children in the United States being raised by grandparents has increased dramatically. Parental drug addiction, child abuse and neglect, parental incarceration, and poverty are the primary precursors of grandparent-headed families. This literature review explores the psychosocial stressors encountered by grandparents who find themselves either the primary caregiver or de facto co-parent of young children. The studies reviewed range from qualitative projects with a small number of participants to longitudinal, quantitative studies with robust samples. The extant literature has delineated stressors such as depression, isolation, neglect of physical health, and increased poverty among grandparents serving as surrogate parents. Single, African American women living in poverty are disproportionally represented in the population of grandparent caregivers. Much of the research regarding grandparent caregivers has been conducted from a social services perspective. At present, little research has focused on psychotherapeutic treatment approaches for this population. Further research is needed to delineate individual and family psychotherapy models which would support grandparents parenting minor children.

Ann Matko
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