All in the family: The impact of caring for grandchildren on grandparents' health

Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Linda J. Waite, Tracey A. LaPierre, Ye Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Scopus citations


Objectives. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of caring for grandchildren on health behaviors and mental and physical health among older adults. Methods. Using a sample of 12,872 grandparents aged 50 through 80 from the Health and Retirement Study, we examined the relationship between stability and change in various types of grandchild care and subsequent health, controlling for covariates and earlier health. Results. We found no evidence to suggest that caring for grandchildren has dramatic and widespread negative effects on grandparents' health and health behavior. We found limited evidence that grandmothers caring for grandchildren in skipped-generation households are more likely to experience negative changes in health behavior, depression, and self-rated health. We also found some evidence of benefits to grandmothers who babysit. Discussion. Our findings suggest that the health disadvantages found previously among grandparent caregivers arise from grandparents' prior characteristics, not as a consequence of providing care. Health declines as a consequence of grandchild care appear to be the exception rather than the rule. These findings are important given continuing reliance on grandparents for day care and increasing reliance on grandparents for custodial care. However, the findings should be tempered by the recognition that for a minority of grandparents, coresidential grandchild care may compromise health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S108-S119
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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