Family coping and adaptation among grandparents rearing grandchildren
Porterfield, Fonda K.
MetadataShow full item record
Over the past decade, grandparent caregiving, in which grandparents take on the sole custody of their grandchildren without a parent present, has been one of the fastest growing family forms in the U.S. Most studies on grandparent caregiver functioning have focused on the challenges and deficits of grandfamilies. Little research has been conducted on the adaptive processes of grandparent caregivers and the coping mechanisms they employ to deal with parenting the second time around. The current study was based on qualitative data generated from 26 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with grandparents who were rearing their grandchildren. Interviews were conducted with 10 grandfathers and 23 grandmothers who were the sole care providers of their grandchildren. The majority of grandparents were providing care for their grandchildren due to their adult child's substance abuse and/or mental illness. During each interview, a semi-structured interview protocol was followed. These interviews began by generating a genogram of the family system, including four generations of the family: the grandparents' parents, the grandparents, their adult children, and their grandchildren.This study was guided by McCubbin and Patterson's Double ABCX Model as well as Boss' Family Stress Model, which situates custodial grandparents within external and internal contexts. The study explored the following research questions: What are the adaptation processes used by grandfamilies? And what coping strategies and resources do custodial grandparents employ to ameliorate their familial stressors? The goal of this study was to explore grandparents' key processes that facilitate successful family adaptation and resilience. Findings revealed that grandparents in this study made at least five salient shifts in their family functioning. Caregivers shifted their identities; their roles; their relationships with family, friends, and communities; their resources (e.g., social supports, government assistance); and their perceptions in order to best meet the needs of their grandchildren. The grandfamilies' adaptation processes were influenced by both external and internal contexts. Understanding custodial grandparents' resilient pathways may hold important implications for future programs and policies intended to better support these families.