Grandparents provide support through the ages

Grandparents provide support through the ages

Media Release — 15 September 2016

Grandmother and grandchildren

Grandparents still play an important role in providing childcare and emotional and financial support to families when it is most needed, according to new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The Institute’s Director, Anne Hollonds said the study looked at grandparents living with families when the children were young to help out in tough times, through to assisting with childcare and ongoing involvement with grandchildren as they grew up.

The study involved 8000 Australian children aged up to 13 years old from all states and territories.

Ms Hollonds said while it was not common in Australia for children to have grandparents living with them, there were clear advantages for those families adopting these living arrangements.

“The study shows that the percentage of children who live with a grandparent in a three generation household was higher at younger ages although this was still only 7 per cent of babies under 1 year and 6 per cent of children aged 2-3 years,” she said.

“Of these households, children were more likely to be living with a grandmother or with both grandparents and it was more likely they were grandparents on the mother’s side of the family.

“Co-resident grandparents were significantly more likely when the grandchild’s primary carer was a single parent, relatively young and less well educated or were from non-English speaking backgrounds.”

AIFS Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said prior research suggests grandparents live in the family home for varied reasons.

“For families with young children it is likely this was to address the needs of the younger generation,” she said.

“It may be that a grandparent is living with the family because they need support and assistance or simply to allow for family members to spend time together and develop relationships.

“However the study indicates that co-resident grandparents are providing some support to children and parents, particularly assistance with housing or financial support for a period of time. For some families, it appears that living with grandparents meant parents could avoid certain financial hardships through sharing of resources.”

Dr Baxter said grandparents, whether they lived with their grandchildren or not, were also a valued source of childcare, particularly for working mothers with young children.

“The study found that maternal grandparents were more likely to be providing child care than paternal grandparents and that this was greatest when the children were under school age,” she said.

“The study found that children being cared for by a grandparent were often also in other care arrangements.  

“About half the children in the study were being cared for by their grandparents just one day a week while a quarter were being cared for two days a week.

“These findings suggest that most grandparents help fill gaps in child care arrangements as mothers move in and out of the workforce and the children spend more time in formal care or preschool.”

Dr Baxter said that while contact with grandparents declined as children grew older, the majority of children still remained in regular contact with them.

“The study shows that more than 95 per cent of children up to the age of 13 years had a least some face-to-face contact with a grandparent,” she said.

“Around 80 per cent of children had at least monthly contact with a grandparent at 4-5 years, compared to 70 per cent of children aged 12-13 years.

“The study also shows that if a parent, particularly the mother had a happy childhood then the children were more likely to have at least monthly contact with their grandparents.”

 Read LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2015 Chapter 2: Grandparents in their young grandchildren’s lives 

Media Contacts

Luisa Saccotelli
0400 149 901
Aileen Muldoon
0419 112 503

See all content about