The Issue of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Family Caregiving September 23, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Grandparents rearing grandchildren is not a new phenomenon; however, it has become more prevalent in recent years, particularly for European Americans. Some groups such as African Americans and Native Americans have long histories of grandparents' involvement in raising their grandchildren. But for many others, this family form is relatively recent.

The 2000 U.S. Census reported close to six million children living in households with their grandparents--a nearly 30% increase over the number reported in the 1990 census. Furthermore, grandparent-headed households continue to be the fastest growing type of household in the U.S. and have been since 1990. There are an estimated 2.5 million grandparents who are rearing their grandchildren without help from the childrens' biological parents.

There are numerous reasons why grandparents are being called upon to rear their grandchildren. But generally, they have one common thread: grandparents are stepping in due to a family crisis. Grandparents report that they are rearing their grandchildren for many reasons, such as:

  • teen pregnancy
  • an adult parent’s substance abuse
  • financial problems
  • incarceration
  • death
  • homelessness
  • deployment

Because of the increase in the numbers of grandparent-headed families, more information has become available. Researchers are examining family relationships and well-being. Policy makers are working to adapt or change family policies that impact families where grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

For more information on grandparents raising grandchildren in your state, go to

Also visit:


  • Sandra J. Bailey, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist, Montana State University.


  • Billingsley, A. (1992). Climbin Jacob's latter: The enduring legacy of African American families. New York: Sage.
  • Bullock, K. (2004). "The changing role of grandparents in rural families: The results of an exploratory study in southeastern North Carolina." Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Services.85(1): 45-54.
  • Cox, C. B. (2003). "Designing interventions for grandparent caregivers: The need for an ecological perspective for practice." Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Services. 84(1): 127-134.
  • Fuller-Thompson, E., Minkler, M., & Driver, D. (1997). "The profile of grandparetns raising grandchildren in the United States." The Gerontologist. 37(3): 404-411.
  • U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). "Children under 18 living in their grandparents' household by state." Retrieved September 13, 2003 from

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.