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Grandparents are great: study

We already knew it, but now there’s further proof that grandparents are doing their childcare bit. An Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) survey of 8000 children, nationwide, has shown that maternal grandparents are particularly hands on in caring for grandkids aged 5 or less.

“The study found that children being cared for by a grandparent were often also in other care arrangements,” AIFS senior research fellow Dr Jennifer Baxter revealed. “These findings suggest that most grandparents help fill gaps in childcare arrangements as mothers move in and out of the workforce and the children spend more time in formal care or preschool.”

Anne McLeish, director of Grandparents Australia, said this kind of familial care is great for children, as it allows them to bond with their grandparents. The trouble arises, McLeish said, when more babies are born. “Grandparents can get worn out,” she explained. “Also, childcare can become a financial burden for them if families don’t make plans for financial or other compensation.”

The AIFS study also surveyed the incidence of multi-generational housing that includes grandparents. Just 7 per cent of babies under 1 year old and 6 per cent of toddlers lived with one or more grandparents.

“Co-resident grandparents were significantly more likely when the [child’s] primary carer was a single parent, relatively young and less educated, or from non-English speaking backgrounds,” Anne Hollonds, AIFS director, said.

McLeish described this arrangement as “positive” and lamented its downward trend.

On an upbeat note, however, the survey also found that the rate of grandchild-grandparent contact, even when kids who didn’t live with them, was 95 per cent. McLeish was comforted by this number. “We have evidence that where the older grandchildren and grandparents still keep in touch with each other, the benefits for the older grandchildren are quote enormous,” she maintained. “They still enjoy the unconditional love that grandparents give.”

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