By Alan Mozes
MONDAY, Nov. 5, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- More than 3 million older Americans are now raising their grandchildren as their own, even as they struggle with health problems and financial stresses, a new survey shows.
Not only that, the children they take in are more likely to be troubled as they struggle to adjust to new lives, the researchers found.
Still, these grandparents seem to be handling the challenges as well as biological parents do.
"Our study found that grandparents raising grandchildren -- despite having greater physical and mental health issues, and despite raising somewhat more behaviorally challenging children -- appear to be coping with the stresses of parenting just as well as biological/adoptive parent caregivers," said survey author Dr. Andrew Adesman. He is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
That's not to say it's easy. Researchers found that grandparents who take on a late-in-life role of parenting tend to be in worse physical and mental health than actual parents. They are also more likely to be single and to struggle financially.
But responses offered in the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health by roughly 46,000 caregivers in grandparent- and parent-led households suggested that grandparents are no more overwhelmed by the burden of caregiving than parents are.
Why are more grandparents finding themselves having to make this tough choice?
"The reasons for this are many, with fatal overdoses related to the opioid epidemic responsible for a significant proportion of these cases," Adesman said.
"Child abuse or neglect is another frequent reason for children being placed with their grandparents," he noted. "Other common reasons include mental health problems of one or both parents, or unexpected deaths due to health problems or motor vehicle accidents."
Adesman is to present his team's findings Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, in Orlando, Fla. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The survey enlisted nearly 45,000 parent-led households, of which about 5,000 were single parents. Grandparent-led families made up another 1,250 of those surveyed.
Given the scientific consensus that the planet is warming—and a recent report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting global temperatures will increase 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040—“it’s fairly clear that we should be concerned about the effect of climate change on mental health,” says lead author Nick Obradovich, a political scientist who researches the societal impact of climate change at the MIT Media Lab. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relies on data from the largest behavioral health survey in the world.