African-American Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren: Results of an Intervention to Reduce Caregiver Psychological Distress

Sunday, 27 July 2014: 3:35 PM

Susan J. Kelley, PhD, FAAN
School of Nursing and Health Professions, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Deborah M. Whitley, MPH, PhD
School of Social Work, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Peter E. Campos, PhD
Project Healthy Grandparents, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

Purpose: Globally, millions of grandmothers are assuming full-time caregiving responsibilities for grandchildren when birth parents are unable to do so. While the reasons for this caregiving arrangement vary by global region, they often include HIV/AIDS, child maltreatment, workforce migration, mental health issues, and substance abuse.   The purpose of this study is to determine the results of an intervention to improve the well-being of grandmothers who are raising grandchildren in parent-absent homes. More specifically, we examine the role of a home-based, interdisciplinary intervention in reducing psychological distress in caregiving grandmothers.   

Methods: The sample comprised 549 predominantly low-income, African American grandmothers raising an average of 2.47 (range 1-8) grandchildren. The mean age of the caregiver was 56.3 years, with a range of 33 to 83 years. The study intervention was designed to improve the psychological and physical well-being of caregiving grandmothers; it included home visitation by registered nurses and social workers, participation in support groups and parenting classes, as well as legal service referrals and early intervention services for children aged 5 years and younger.  Data were collected at baseline and at completion of the one year intervention. Psychological distress was measured with the 51 item, Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) (Derogatis, 1993).

Results: The major reasons the children were being raised by participants included substance abuse, abandonment, and neglect. Overall psychological distress, as measured by the Global Severity Index (GSI) of the BSI, decreased significantly from baseline to post-test (p < .001). Furthermore, there were significant decreases across all nine symptom dimensions of the BSI (p < .01). Results based on select demographic variables will also be presented.

Conclusion: Study findings suggest that the intervention model is a promising approach to improving the well-being of this caregiving population. Practice, policy, and research implications of study findings will be presented.