Newswise — Grandmothers around the country cherish the time they spend with their grandchildren, but many American grandmothers are doing more than spending time with their grandchildren " they're raising them. In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 5.8 million grandparents were residing with at least one of their grandchildren.
Grandmothers who have living parents or in-laws and find themselves raising grandchildren experience a greater sense of burden and depression, according to University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Teresa Cooney. She believes that the increased burden and depression was due to the potential demands placed on middle-generation women.
"The younger grandparents, who were raising their grandchildren, felt like they should be doing more for their elders while other people their age, who had parents with the same needs, did not feel that burden," said Cooney, associate professor of human development and family studies in the College of Human and Environmental Sciences. "It's as though they have an inner conflict over what their role should be at this point in their lives."
Cooney also looked at the connection between grandmothers' level of education and the level of burden they expressed. She found that despite a difference in income, grandmothers who had more than a high school education reported a greater burden than less-educated women.
"Though we can only speculate," Cooney said. "It may be that middle-aged and older women who have higher levels of education also possess less traditional views of family and gender roles. These women may consider raising a second set of children to be an especially burdensome experience."
Cooney's study looked at 25 grandmothers in the oldest generation of their families and 22 younger grandmothers who had living parents or in-laws.
The study, "Women in the Middle: Generational Position and Grandmothers' Adjustment to Raising Grandchildren" was the lead article in the summer 2006 issue of Journal of Women and Aging.