Grandparents provide crucial childcare assistance
GRANDPARENTS are playing an important role in providing childcare and emotional and financial support to their children and grandchildren, according to a study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
The study of 8000 children 13-years and under found that many grandparents step in to help with childcare at least one day a week for half of families, with some even living in three-generation homes to help lighten the load.
In fact, the study found 50% of children were being cared for by their grandparents one day a week, while 25% were being cared for two days a week.
AIFS senior research fellow Dr Jennifer Baxter said grandparents were a valued source of childcare, particularly for working mothers with young children.
"The study found that maternal grandparents were more likely to be providing childcare than paternal grandparents and that this was greatest when the children were under school age," she said.
"The study found that children being cared for by a grandparent were often also in other care arrangements.
"About half the children in the study were being cared for by their grandparents just one day a week while a quarter were being cared for two days a week.
"These findings suggest that most grandparents help fill gaps in childcare arrangements as mothers move in and out of the workforce and the children spend more time in formal care or preschool."
The institute's director, Anne Hollonds, said while it was not common in Australia for children to have grandparents living with them, there were clear advantages for those families adopting these living arrangements.
"The study shows that the percentage of children who live with a grandparent in a three generation household was higher at younger ages, although this was still only 7% of babies under 1 year and 6% of children aged 2-3 years," she said.
"Of these households, children were more likely to be living with a grandmother or with both grandparents, and it was more likely they were grandparents on the mother's side of the family.
"Co-resident grandparents were significantly more likely when the grandchild's primary carer was a single parent, relatively young and less well educated or were from non-English speaking backgrounds."
Dr Baxter said that while contact with grandparents declined as children grew older, the majority of children still remained in regular contact with them.
"The study shows that more than 95% of children up to the age of 13 years had a least some face-to-face contact with a grandparent," she said.
"Around 80% of children had at least monthly contact with a grandparent at 4-5 years, compared to 70% of children aged 12-13 years.
"The study also shows that if a parent, particularly the mother, had a happy childhood then the children were more likely to have at least monthly contact with their grandparents."