"Well you just get on with it " - Examining the impact of grandparenting a child with a disability

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Woodbridge, Sandra
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Paris France


The ageing of the world's population has meant that is now possible for children born today to be part of three, four and sometimes five generation families. Each generation will have a particular view and expectation of what being a grandparent means and how that role should be played out in their family and in their culture. How a grandparent functions as a grandparent will be influenced by a number of factors including the age of the grandparent; their health status, their financial situation; their location; their own experience of being grandparented and the relationship they have with their own children. This paper presents the findings of an Australian study which identified how the birth of a grandchild with a disability impacts on the roles and relationships grandparents expected to have in their families. Method: the study conducted in-depth interviews with 22 grandmothers and grandfathers whose grandchildren had a range of physical or intellectual disabilities, either at birth or as a result of trauma and who were under the age of 17. Results: Grandparents reported that they had experienced a range of emotional responses to the diagnosis that their grandchild had a disability and that this had impacted on their grandparenting role within the family. Grandparents reported that they fulfilled both instrumental and symbolic roles as required and that adjusted their expectations to suit the situation. Grandparents used their knowledge and skills to assist the family reach their desired goals for the child, as well as being there for their own child when stressful and anxious times arose. Conclusion: The results of this study will inform the current knowledge on the important roles played by grandparents and makes a call for greater recognition and support within governments and the community for this important contribution.

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XIXth IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics

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Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified

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