Family resilience is the capacity for families to weather and grow through adverse circumstances via transactional, intrafamilial processes that promote mutual support and problem solving. Despite their well-documented hardships, few studies examine associations between family resilience and kinship family health outcomes.
Methods: The current study analyzes cross-sectional associations between family resilience and health outcomes among 2,635 kinship caregiver-child dyads who completed the National Survey of Children’s Health, an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The majority of caregivers (Mage= 55.25 years; 75.68% women) were grandparents (73.53%). Children (51.01% girls; Mage=8.57 years) were mostly white (51.01%) or Black (33.10%), and 22.83% were Latinx. Approximately 62.83% of families lived below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. The survey did not ask whether families were child welfare-involved. Associations were tested using weighted multiple linear and logistic regression.
Independent variable. Family resilience was measured using a four-item scale assessing the frequency with which kinship caregivers engage in family resilience processes when confronted with challenges (⍺= .90). Higher scores indicate higher family resilience.
Caregiver outcomes. Caregiver health and mental health were each assessed using single items asking caregivers to rate their overall health or mental health on a five-point scale. Higher scores indicated greater health. Parenting stress was measured using a three-item scale assessing emotional distress related to caregiving (⍺=.80). Higher scores indicated greater parenting stress.
Child outcomes. Child health was measured using a single item asking caregivers to rate their child’s health on a five-point scale. Higher scores indicated greater health. Child internalizing disorders were measured using a dichotomous variable indicating whether the child had been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Child behavioral problems were measured using a dichotomous variable indicating whether a medical provider/educator had ever reported the child having behavioral problems.
Covariates. Caregiver-level covariates included age, sex, marital status, education, relationship to the child, number of children, family size, and income. Child-level covariates included ACEs, age, sex, race, and ethnicity.
Results: Family resilience was positively associated with caregiver health (β= .12, p= .001), caregiver mental health (β= .26, p< .001), and child health (β= .07, p= .04). Family resilience was negatively associated with parenting stress (β= -.15, p< .001). Family resilience was associated with decreased odds of child behavioral problems (adjusted OR= .91, p= .02) but not child internalizing disorders (adjusted OR= .94, p= .13).
Conclusions/Implications: Findings highlight kinship families’ resilience and their ability to promote multigenerational health outcomes despite hardship. Kinship families may benefit from interventions that target entire families rather than individuals. A resilience-based approach may also better acknowledge kinship families’ ingenious responses to adversity.