What we know about custodial grandparents

About 2 percent of children in the U.S. are being raised by their grandparents with no parent living in the home, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But what do we know about these families? And do grandparents face any particular parenting challenges that differ from more traditional households?

Researchers at the College of Human Ecology and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research are experts in these complex relationships. They’ve published a research brief that summarizes the best way to support these families. While it’s not a comprehensive systematic review, it provides an overview of much of the evidence available on this important topic, and provides tips to caregivers who work with these families.

Among the findings summarized in the brief:

  • Most children in the custody of grandparents have some contact with their biological parents. In some cases, these interactions are helpful and positive, although others can have a negative effect. But the research clearly shows that parents play key roles in the lives of children being raised by relatives.
  • Educational programs that help biological parents become more involved in their children’s lives can benefit the entire family.
  • Confidential counseling for children is important because research shows children often feel torn between their caregivers and their biological parents.

There are plenty of other resources out there for grandparents living with grandchildren.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides statistics on grandparents raising grandchildren.  And a British non-profit organization called Mentor UK conducted an international review of the evidence on the topic with some insightful information.

“Despite the growth in the numbers of custodial grandparent families in New York and across the U.S., we actually know very little about relationship quality and parenting in such families,” said Kimberly Kopko, senior extension associate at the BCTR. “The goal of our research is to learn more about grandparents and the teenagers that they are raising and to use the findings from our research to inform policies and programs to help address the needs of grandparent-headed families.”


  1. criterion yishun says:

    custodial grandparents are greatly respected.

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