Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 289 pages) : PDF file, illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Russell Ward

Committee Members

Glenna Spitze, Philip McCallion


Caregiving, Elderly, Family, Gerontology, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Caregivers, Grandparent and child, Frail elderly

Subject Categories



A larger proportion of adult grandchildren today have grandparents still alive than in any previous historical era. An older grandchild implies an older grandparent -- and, as chronic illnesses increase with age, these grandparents are likely to be ill. Little attention has been given to the dynamics of the grandchild-grandparent relationship in the face of illness of the grandparent, although demographic shifts indicate that most grandchildren and their grandparents will share a period of time during which the grandparent is suffering from a chronic illness. This dissertation examines adult grandchildren who provide regular assistance to a grandparent with health limitations. Data collected for this dissertation is derived from qualitative semi-structured interviews with 35 grandchildren who are caring for an ill grandparent with at least one ADL impairment. Six areas of inquiry are examined: (1) how the dynamics of the existing grandparent/grandchild relationship affects caregiving processes of grandchildren; (2) how caregiving for a grandparent changes the grandchild/grandparent relationship; (3) why/under what circumstances adult grandchildren provide care for their grandparents; (4) negative effects of providing this care, (5) the positive effects of providing this care, and (6) the available supports and needs of these adult grandchild caregivers. Findings have implications for intergenerational family caregivers, the work and life trajectories for grandchildren providing care, the policies and programs aimed for supporting these grandchildren, and the need for more research on this caregiving population.

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