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Study: many grandparents assuming larger caregiver role

On a given neighborhood street in any Florida town or city or other municipality nationwide, family composition from house to house can vary widely.

In other words, the family grouping in one home might encompass the parents and their children, while only a single parent and a child might reside in the house directly across the street. The family next door might include the grandparents, as well, while a family further down the block might comprise only grandparents and grandchildren, with both parents being absent.

Thus, what passes as the family “norm” in contemporary America might be just a bit difficult to say these days, with social, economic and other forces coalescing to foster a new and changing fluidity in household composition.

A recent Washington Post article addresses this phenomenon, noting especially that ever-higher numbers of grandparents are “filling in the gaps in increasingly nontraditional family structures.” Specifically, grandparents are playing larger roles over child custody matters, in providing child care assistance and serving as primary caregivers.

The publication bases that assessment on a recently issued report citing data from the Census Bureau and various university studies. Among other things, findings indicate that older Americans, most often grandparents, are assuming progressively larger roles within family units. A family expert from AARP -- the well-known advocacy group for the elderly -- says that grandparents live with their grandchildren and serve as primary caregivers in about 2.6 million American homes. Millions of other homes also have multiple generations living together.

“[G]randparents have always been a safety net,” says the AARP’s Amy Goyer, who notes that more grandparents have been moving in with grandchildren since the advent of the recent recession.

Source: The Washington Post, "As families become more complicated, more grandparents care for kids, study says," Tara Bahrampour, Nov. 5, 2013

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