Stress and coping in African American grandparents who are raising grandchildren

Mary Ellen Trail Ross, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Over the years, substantial increases have occurred in the number of children being raised by their grandparents. A small number of studies have reported that grandparents raising grandchildren experience an increase in stress due to the demands of caregiving. The primary objectives of this study were to: (1) determine the degree of stress in African American (AA) grandparents who are raising their grandchildren age 12 years or younger; (2) identify the variables pertaining to the demographic characteristics of the grandparent caregiver and characteristics of the caregiving situation; (3) identify the coping strategies reported by AA grandparents; and (4) identify the relative importance of demographic and situational variables pertaining to the grandparent caregiver and caregiving situation, and coping strategies in influencing the degree of stress experienced. An exploratory, descriptive, cross sectional design was used to study stress and coping in 50 AA grandparents who ranged in age from 44–87 years (M = 63.12). Data were collected via one personal interview in January/February 2001 at area senior centers or churches which the grandparent attends in Harris County, Texas. Five home interviews were done as requested by grandparents. The instruments used to measure stress and coping were the Parenting Stress Index developed by Abidin and Folkman and Lazarus' Ways of Coping Questionnaire. Results of the study found that the grandparents is this study were a highly stressed group. Ninety-four percent of the sample demonstrated a “clinically significant” level of stress. Situational variables associated with lower stress levels were use of counseling, use of special school programs such as tutoring and special education, and increased length of caregiving (>5 years). The most frequently used coping strategies overall were seeking social support and positive reappraisal. Six coping strategies were significantly correlated to lower reported stress: positive reappraisal, accepting responsibility, confrontive coping, self-control, planful problem solving, and distancing. The findings from this study have limited generalizability. Nonetheless, this study was useful in adding to the limited amount of literature on AA grandparents who are rearing their grandchildren. The results clearly suggest the need for affordable counseling, support groups, education related to available resources, stress management, and interventions that increase the use of coping strategies found to reduce perceived stress. Future research should investigate levels of stress in AA and other grandparent caregivers longitudinally, as well as focus on stress and coping in grandparents raising grandchildren with special needs.

Subject Area

Public health|Gerontology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Trail Ross, Mary Ellen, "Stress and coping in African American grandparents who are raising grandchildren" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3027656.