In the US, more and more children are being raised by grandparents. While there are certainly other reasons, 2 major ones include the COVID-19 pandemic (as of June 2021, more than 140,000 US children lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19) and the opioid epidemic.
In their paper, entitled “Child Health Status and Health Care Use in Grandparent- versus Parent-Led Households,” which is being early released by Pediatrics this week (10.1542/peds.2021-055291), Deepa Joshi, MD and Lydie Lebrun-Harris, PhD, from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HSRA) state that more than 1.6 million US children are living in households with 1 or 2 grandparents and no parent present.
For multiple reasons, including the experience of adverse or traumatic events, many children cared for by grandparents have complex needs. Grandparents are also older and may have their own health problems, which may make it more difficult for care for their grandchildren.
So how do these children do?
The authors used data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (2016-2019), a nationally representative survey to compare grandparent-led and parent-led households.
They found that children in grandparent-led households had increased prevalence of almost every health condition that was looked at, including but not limited to:
- Dental problems
- Behavioral/conduct problems
- Learning disability
- Special health care needs
Sadly, these children also were less likely to have a usual source of sick care and less likely to have had preventive medical and dental visits.
There is a lot of information in this article, and I encourage you to read it. One of the main takeaways from this article is that our patients who live in grandparent-led households may need extra support from the system, whether it be help with navigating patient portals, transportation to visits, or social support.