Non-custodial grandparent caregiving in Chinese families: implications for family dynamics

Publication Date09 December 2014
Date09 December 2014
AuthorCynthia Leung,Barbara Fung
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services
Non-custodial grandparent caregiving
in Chinese families: implications
for family dynamics
Cynthia Leung and Barbara Fung
Cynthia Leung is a Professor,
based at Department of
Applied Social Sciences,
The Hong Kong Polytechnic
University, Hung Hom,
Hong Kong.
Dr Barbara Fung is a Senior
Medical Officer, based at
Family Health Service,
Department of Health,
Hong Kong SAR Government,
Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to understand the needs and experiences of Chinese families where
grandparents were involved in the non-custodial care of their grandchildren.
Design/methodology/approach – In total five grandparent focus groups and three parent focus groups
were conducted. The data were analysed using the constant comparative method.
Findings – Though most grandparents enjoyed their grandparent roles, there were differences in the
perception of the grandparent role between grandparents and parents. Both grandparents and parents
reported intergenerational conflicts on the management of the grandchildren, which was distressing for
both parties.
Practical implications – It was suggested that grandparent training programmes might be a viable
strategy to support families.
Originality/value – The study provided insights into family dynamics in the context of grandparent
caregiving, child development, as well as children’s services.
Keywords Chinese, Family, Child behaviour, Child development, Grandparents, Parents
Paper type Research paper
The role of grandparents in childcare has significantly increased over the last few decades due
to several reasons. First, with increasing longevity in developed nations, people are leading
longer, healthier lives and so they are more available for the caregiving of their grandchildren in
their senior years (Grundy et al., 1999). Second, there is a greater prevalence of single-parent
families or families in which both parents work, and these families might need childcare support
for their preschool age children (Dex et al., 2005). Third, the cost of non-familial childcare is
increasing and is likely to be beyond the resources of many families. However, despite these
social changes, there are currently few published studies examining how grandparental
childcare impacts on the family.
There are two major types of grandparent caregiving, custodial or non-custodial. Custodial
caregivers are primary caregivers in situations where the parents are no longer able to provide
full-time care to their own children. Non-custodial grandparents are secondary caregivers,
providing regular/occasional care (Kirby and Sanders, 2012). The present study focused on the
role of non-custodial grandparents and its impact on family dynamics as there was limited or
little research in this area, particularly in Chinese communities.
In the discussion below, theorisation and concepts on grandparenting, as well as
outcomes of grandparent caregiving, will first be discussed. This is followed by a review
of Chinese culture and research on Chinese grandparenting, and a review of the situation
in Hong Kong.
This study was funded by an
Internal Grant from The Hong Kong
Polytechnic University for the
employment of a research
assistant, purchase of copyright
test materials and general
DOI 10.1108/JCS-04-2014-0026 VOL. 9 NO. 4 2014, pp. 307-318, CEmerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660
PAGE 307

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