Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Coping Strategies Used by Grandparents as Primary Caregivers to Grandchildren
Article Information
Geriatrics/Productive Aging / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Coping Strategies Used by Grandparents as Primary Caregivers to Grandchildren
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510215.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510215.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

Older adults caring for their grandchildren is a phenomenon; little research has focused on ways they cope with parenting stressors. This qualitative study explored coping strategies used by grandparents. Results inform more effective occupation-based interventions to improve quality of life.

Primary Author and Speaker: Jennifer-Nicole Wood

Additional Authors and Speaker: Kayla Gittens, Callie Merriman, Patrick Hopkins

Contributing Authors: Kenneth Guy, Jenene Woods Craig, Kathleen T. Foley

PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to gather information on the lived experiences of grandparents caring for their grandchildren to (1) explore the effects of the role change; (2) determine coping methods used to manage stressors; and (3) compare coping methods between grandmothers and grandfathers.
BACKGROUND: The prevalence of grandparents as primary caregivers for their grandchildren has increased in recent years. Previous studies have reported changes in roles, routines, and occupations of grandparent caregivers accompanied by physiological and psychological effects secondary to stress. There is a lack of research identifying effective coping strategies for grandparents raising grandchildren.
DESIGN: This study used an investigational phenomenology design based on the Theory of Occupational Adaptation.
PARTICIPANTS: Ten grandparents, 6 women and 4 men, ages 51 yr and older from Georgia and Alabama completed the study. All were the primary caregivers of grandchildren >18 yr old who resided in the same household.
METHOD: A demographic form was used to gather a description of each participant and their caregiving duties. Grandparents participated in individual audiotaped semistructured interviews to gather data on their perceived parenting stressors, coping strategies, and use of resources for assistance; behavioral observations were recorded during the interview. Also, the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WAYS) was administered to measure each participant’s thoughts and action related to dealing with stressful situations.
ANALYSIS: Demographic data were summarized, and the WAYS interpretation was added as an additional descriptor. All researchers independently analyzed interview transcripts and respective field notes using line-by-line interpretation and open coding techniques. All researchers joined to create categories from the codes. Upon completion of coding and categorization, all researchers developed themes from the categories.
CONCLUSION: Results indicated commonly shared stressors included increased demands on time, decreased sleep, aging, change from previous parenting approach, and generational issues such as technology use and ability to assist with homework. Grandfathers’ stress levels were not as high as grandmothers’. Both genders were adapting to the role change and sought social support to manage stress; however, grandmothers often utilized outside resources, such as church groups or family, and grandfathers participated in outdoor activities to relieve stress.
DISCUSSION: This study showed that grandparents more engaged in meaningful activities and with support systems coped with stress better than those who did not. The shift in role from grandparent to parent brings with it a new set of external demands, such as the social expectation to support grandchildren in academic activities and sports. Grandparents also reported internal demands, driven by their personal values, to provide a healthy environment for their grandchildren to flourish.
Occupational therapists must consider the unique internal and external demands that accompany this role and the potential influence on occupational balance in the lives of adults and older adults.
IMPACT STATEMENT: Knowledge regarding effective coping mechanisms can inform effective intervention strategies to improve occupational balance and quality of life for grandparents raising grandchildren.