Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Supporting the wellbeing of grandparents raising grandchildren can decrease behavioural problems among grandchildren

Chan KL, Chen M, Lo KM, Chen Q, Kelley S, Ip P. The effectiveness of interventions for grandparents raising grandchildren: A meta-analysis Research on Social Work Practice. 2019; 29(6): 607-617.

Review question

      How effective are intervention programs designed for grandparents raising their grandchildren?


      In recent years, the prevalence of grandparents providing primary care for their grandchildren has risen substantially worldwide.

      In 2012, approximately 2.7 million grandparents in the United States were primary caregivers of their grandchildren. In Australia, about 11% of children have lived in a three-generation household during their early childhood.

      The extent to which grandparents are involved in the care of their grandchildren varies substantially across geographies and cultures.

      Social problems such as parental incarceration, teen pregnancy, adult drug abuse, family violence, and housing crises have contributed to the increasing number of multigenerational and skipped-generation households. The increased demands of women in the workplace have also contributed to this trend.

      The aim of this systematic review is to present the effectiveness and characteristics of intervention programs for grandparents raising their grandchildren, specifically looking at their effects on grandparenting skills as well as both the grandparents’ and grandchildren’s wellbeing.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a detailed search of six research databases for eligible studies published before April 2018.

      Searches using titles, key words, and abstracts were performed based on combinations of two groups of terms: (1) grandparent caregiver, custodial grandparents, and grandparents/grandmothers/grandfathers raising grandchildren and (2) intervention, training, and support groups.

      Manual searches of the references section of related studies were conducted to identify further studies for inclusion.

      Grey literature resources such as conference abstracts, dissertations, and unpublished studies were also searched for additional studies.

      A total of 335 papers were retrieved and screened for the review, 20 of which were included.

      The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and publication of this article.

What the researchers found

      Because custodial grandparents experience many different challenges related to their caretaking responsibilities, most interventions examined multiple outcomes related to grandparents’ wellbeing, using various tools to assess the effectiveness of programs.

      Programs included group-based programs with supportive components (for example, discussion of group members’ sense of stigma and concerns about the future of their families); educational components (for example, social supports, common stressors and cognitive/behavioural coping strategies; identifying and managing conflict; parent skills; information on legal options and availability for social services; community-based initiatives and collective advocacy). Other programs focused on parenting skills training and psychosocial adjustment of grandchildren (grief, depression, and anger), on custodial grandparent parental efficacy and grandchild relationship quality. Other programs offered case management and counselling (to address housing, interventions with social and health agencies, benefits counselling, special education, summer camp for the grandchildren, and respite services); support groups (to address grandchildren’s needs, and help grandparents to take care of themselves, including stress reduction, relaxation, nutrition, and own health needs). Some programs provided training in the use of positive parenting strategies, building a positive-parenting team with the parent, and coping strategies to manage unhelpful emotions.

      The wellbeing of grandparents were examined in multiple dimensions of health, including mental health (for example, stress, depression, and anxiety) and physical health as related to their role as child caregivers.

      In general, it was found that interventions were effective in improving grandparents’ wellbeing. Interventions were found to be most successful in enhancing the resources and social support of grandparents. Small improvements were seen in mental health, physical health, life satisfaction and empowerment, and grandparents’ relationships with family members.

      The review also found that the intervention programs had a positive effect on grandparents’ parenting skills; a reduction in behavioural problems of grandchildren were also seen after the grandparents attended the program.


      In summary, the findings of this systematic review demonstrate that the included intervention programs had positive effects on grandparents’ well-being, although the effect on different wellbeing outcomes varied greatly.

      The authors stress that more analysis of high-quality evidence is needed to find out what works in an intervention program and to facilitate the implementation of effective interventions.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Evidence Summaries

Related Web Resources

  • Behavioral weight loss programs are effective — but where to find them?

    Harvard Health Letter
    Behavioral weight loss programs can help people lose weight and are relatively safe. They may also help reduce the risk of diabetes. If you are not able to access a behavioural weight loss program, you can develop a tailored version with a team of health professionals and specialists or try a variety of mobile phone apps geared towards weight loss.
  • Improving housing to improve health - warmth and space are key

    Evidently Cochrane
    Poor housing is associated with poor health. Research shows cold, damp and overcrowded homes can have a negative impact on your respiratory health.
  • Patient education: How to use a peak flow meter (Beyond the Basics)

    UpToDate - patient information
    A peak flow meter measures lung function and the severity of asthma symptoms. It is an inexpensive, easy way to monitor asthma symptoms at home. Regular measurements can help guide treatment. This website gives tips on how to use it.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.

Support for the Portal is largely provided by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative. AGE-WELL is a contributing partner. Help us to continue to provide direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help you stay healthy, active and engaged as you grow older. Donate Today.

© 2012 - 2020 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use