Grandmothers as surrogate parents: A phenomenological study



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Texas Tech University


This qualitative study was undertaken to provide a description of the meaning that these grandmothers gave to the experience of parenting their grandchildren. Fourteen grandmothers participated in the study; seven of the grandmothers were married, and in three of those interviews, where the grandfather was present, he was included as a collateral contributor. The number of children in each family ranged from one to four, and their ages ranged from eight to twenty years. The various reasons given for this living arrangement for each family are described, as well as any occurrence of this same situation in the family history.

In addition to exploring the meaning of the experience for the participants in the study, questions of interest also included how the grandmothers perceived their adaptation to the circumstances, the contextual variations (i.e., age of the grandmother, income, resources) of each family, and the interaction patterns between the adult parents of the children and the grandmothers.

Their in-depth narratives were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed to determine the commonalities and the differences in the experience for the 14 grandmothers who participated. The richness of their stories provided an important exploration of what surrogate parenting had been for the participants in the smdy. While the overall impression was in a positive vein, that was not attained without some difficulties and adjustment to being a parent again. The qualitative approach allows the reader a deeper understanding of what the experience of parenting grandchildren can be like. The sense of coherence conceptual framework and resiliency, a coping response to adversity, provide plausible explanations of the positive description in the findings.



Adaptability (Psychology) in old age -- Case studies, Adjustment (Psychology) in old age -- Case studies, Grandparents as parents -- Case studies, Grandparent and child, Life skills, Grandmothers, Stress in old age -- Case studies