Researchers to study method for supporting grandparents raising grandchildren

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A new UNC Charlotte study is set to evaluate the impact of an educational intervention aimed at supporting grandparents raising their grandchildren. Led by Julian Montoro-Rodriguez, director of the University’s interdisciplinary Gerontology Program and supported by a grant from Southminster senior living community, the study will evaluate the effectiveness of a psycho-educational intervention to improve the health and social psychological outcomes for grandparents raising grandchildren.

“The intervention will ask participants to focus on the setting of realistic goals as determined by the grandparent,” said Montoro-Rodriguez. “Personal goals are positively related to well-being. Successful development implies that individuals succeed in progressing towards their goals.” 

In the United States, more than 6 million children are being cared for on at least a part-time basis by nearly 3 million middle-aged and older grandparents, according to Generations United. As caretakers, grandparents assume parental responsibilities and are role models in discussing issues pertinent to contemporary life. These roles bring accompanying challenges, according to Montoro-Rodriguez.

“Grandparents in this group report feeling isolated from age peers, feel judged by others as failures as parents, report shame linked to the perceived stigma of having to raise their grandchildren and may lack skills to meet these challenges and maintain their own mental and physical health and well-being,” he said.

The study will focus on improving the quality of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, and it will refresh the grandparents’ communication skills and strategies to ask for help. The intervention will provide basic instruction in positive parenting practices. Researchers will supplement goal setting with goal implementation, to include the identification of potential barriers in implementing these goals. Each grandparent will share experiences in raising her grandchild and the relationship to the goals set, allowing for revision of those that were not realistic or too difficult to implement.

Jennifer Ramsey will collaborate with Montoro-Rodriguez on the study as research project coordinator. She holds a Ph.D. in lifespan developmental psychology from N.C. State University.

Montoro-Rodriguez is a sociologist with a teaching and research background in the area of aging, health, human development and family studies. His research during the past 20 years has focused chiefly on the interrelations between formal and informal support systems and optimal adaptation and adjustment developmental changes for older adults.

The interdisciplinary Gerontology Program offers an undergraduate minor in gerontology, a master’s of gerontology (MA) and a new online graduate certificate.