All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Lois Christensen

Advisory Committee Members

Lynn Kirkland

Deborah Strevy

Kay Emfinger

Grace Jepkemboi

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


ABSTRACT For generations, grandparents have taken a special role in the lives of their grandchildren- to nurture, love, encourage and support them to achieve their goals. However, in the past fifteen years, the definition of family has become more flexible, as it accommodated the increasing number of grandparents raising grandchildren as primary caregivers. This research studies this family structure, which was seen as a solution to raise young children whose parents were unfit to perform their role as parents or because of a crisis. Grandparents who raise their grandchildren as primary caregivers were chosen using purposeful snowball sampling. The grandchildren were all minors. The researcher interviewed the participants and was able to get varied perspectives on the issue being studied. After analyzing the data, the themes that emerged were: * Reasons for this dynamic family structure * Emotional responses * Coping Strategies * Various forms of support. The results of the study indicated that grandparents faced many challenges, but despite the challenges, the joys they experienced far outweighed the challenges. A finding from this study that was not consistent with the literature on the issue was that this experience of grandparents raising grandchildren did not affect the health of the participating grandparents (all raising their grandchildren as primary caregivers) in any adverse manner. In fact, they felt this arrangement gave them more energy, gave them purpose and a reason to live. Another result of this study that was not consistent with the related literature was gender related. Most of the literature spoke of grandmothers in the caregiving role. The literature pointed to the nurturing and caring characteristics found in females, which suggested the reasons women were seen as doing the caregiving. However, this study found grandfathers that took an active role in every aspect of their grandchild's life as they raised their grandchildren as primary caregivers.

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