Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Second Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Reding

Third Advisor

Dr. Linda Dannison


Role theory, specifically the incongruous and time-disordered role fit confronted by grandparent caregivers, provides the theoretical basis for this inductive qualitative research study.

A cohort of thirty-five grandparent caregivers, predominantly White, middle-income, older and married, participated in this study. Also included were seven leaders of support groups for grandparents responsible for raising their grandchildren.

Instrumentation included 23 questions to elicit demographic information from the grandparent caregiver. Additionally, the grandparents and the support group leaders responded to a set of focused questions designed to identify (a) the issues facing grandparents who are primary caregivers for their grandchildren, (b) the implications for public policy initiatives that the grandparent-as-caregiver phenomenon brings, and (c) what role state government should play in this phenomenon.

The findings indicate grandparent caregivers were motivated to parent their grandchildren from a strong sense of family values. The transition from grandparent-to-parent was emotionally draining. The grandparents perceived that community programs and services for them and their grandchildren were limited and not easily accessed. Support groups and “church-family” were regarded as invaluable. Respite services, which are largely non-existent, and free legal help ranked high among services the grandparent caregiver perceived as desirable. Guardianship laws were not perceived to adequately address the needs of either the caregivers or their grandchildren. Finally, the grandparent caregiver role was often cited as the cause of strained relations with family members and others.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access