Grandparents raising grandchildren: population characteristics, perceived neighborhood risk, alcohol use, and drug misuse as predictors of emotional well being

Access full-text files




Longoria, Richard Albert

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This study is a secondary analysis of data collected during Wave 1 (November 1999 – April 2001) of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well Being (NSCAW). Using a probability sample of 465 grandparents, this study reports population demographic characteristics of grandparents raising grandchildren within state child welfare systems across the United States and examines the role of neighborhood conditions and alcohol and drug (AOD) consumption as predictors of these surrogate parents’ emotional well being. The Short-Form 12 Mental Component Summary was used to measure emotional well being. Items from the Composite International Diagnostic Interview were used to index grandparents’ AOD consumption. A principal components analysis was used to construct “perceived neighborhood risk” to measure grandparents’ perception of neighborhood conditions. Descriptive and multivariate statistical analyses were conducted using national weights to derive population estimates. Among this population of surrogate parents, an estimated 96.5% are female, 55.2% are aged 55 or younger, 41.8% did not complete high school, and 17.3% reported an annual household income of less than $10,000. The race/ethnic makeup of this population of caregivers is White, Non-Hispanic (55.7%), Black, NonHispanic (31.3%), Hispanic (8.3%), and Other, Non-Hispanic (4.6%). An estimated 40.2% and 59.8% of these grandparents cared for their grandchildren on a permanent and non-permanent basis, respectively. Additional population demographic characteristics are reported in this study. Controlling for the effects of variables categorized as 1) grandparent demographic characteristics and resources and 2) grandchild demographic characteristics and caregiver demands, the multivariate analyses provided limited support for the hypothesis that increased perceived neighborhood risk negatively impacts grandparents’ emotional well being. In addition, compared to grandparents who did not use alcohol or misuse a drug, those who self-reported drug misuse and alcohol use had statistically significant lower levels of emotional well being. Implications for social work practice include the need to assess grandparents’ AOD consumption and their perceptions of neighborhood conditions and provide needed services. Future research should focus on factors that contribute to high levels of grandparents’ emotional well being to balance the emphasis on psychological distress evident in the extant literature.