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More Children Being Raised By Grandparents

September 13, 2010

According to a new analysis of census data, the number of U.S. children being raised by grandparents has risen sharply since the beginning of the recession.

These grandparents face distinctive stresses as they confront unanticipated financial burdens and culture shock that come with the responsibilities of raising a child.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent Census Bureau Data, about 7 million U.S. children live in households that include at least one grandparent.  Of that number, grandparents were raising 2.9 million, which is a number up 16 percent since 2000.

“Clearly something was going on” in those years, Pew senior researcher Gretchen Livingston, a co-author of Thursday’s analysis, told The Associated Press (AP).  “We don’t have the data to explicitly state that this is related to recession, but it’s a very educated guess.”

Some reasons for a grandparent taking over parental responsibilities include a single parent becoming overwhelmed with financial problems, succumbing to an illness or substance abuse, or dying. 

“It’s almost inevitable that there is some stress around the reason these grandparents and grandchildren come together,” Donna Butts, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Generations United, told AP.

“You’re talking about older adults who have agreed to make some sacrifice in their life, and they need to have some support and respect,” Butts said. “There are a lot of emotions that the children and the grandparents experience “” an anger, a loss of their traditional role.”

According to Pew, the 2007 and 2008 data showed that 53 percent of grandparent caregivers are white, 24 percent are black, and 18 percent are Hispanic.

The Pew Center reported that most grandparents give themselves high marks for the role they play in a child’s life, with the majority of them saying they are doing a very good or excellent job.  Less than 10 percent marked themselves as “fair” or “poor.”

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that many children living with grandparents enter that arrangement with preexisting problems, such as abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, and loss of their parents.

“Many grandparents in this caretaking role underestimate or are unaware of the added burdens their new role as ‘parents’ will place upon them,” Pew reported. It urges these grandparents to find support and assistance from other family members, clergy, social agencies and mental health professionals.

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