Methods: We analyzed cross-sectional data collected from grandparents raising grandchildren between March 2021 and March 2022. Survey data were collected via multiple sources, including state agencies (e.g., Department of Social Services, Department on Aging), local non-profit organizations serving kinship families, local foster parent associations, schools, and Qualtrics Panels. A cohort of grandparents (N=255) with their grandchildren between ages 4 and 17 were selected for this study. Grandchildren’s internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems, as dependent variables, were measured using the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (Goodman, 1997). Grandparent-grandchild relationship quality, an independent variable, was measured using a brief version of the child-parent relationship scale , which included conflict and closeness two subscales (Pianta, 1992). Other covariates, including grandparent race/ethnicity, gender, age, financial stress, and parenting stress, and grandchild race/ethnicity, age, gender, disability status, and Medicaid enrollment status, were controlled. Multiple regression analyses were conducted using STATA.
Results: Results indicate that the closeness between grandparents and grandchildren was negatively associated with grandchildren’s increased internalizing (b= -.26, p < .001) and externalizing (b= -.15, p = .017) behavioral problems. The conflict between grandparents and grandchildren was positively associated with grandchildren’s increased internalizing (b= .16, p < .001) and externalizing (b= .32, p < .001) behavioral problems. Other significant variables associated with grandchildren’s internalizing behavioral problems included grandchild disability status (b=2.29, p < .001), grandparent parenting stress (b= .37, p = .020), and grandparent depressive symptoms (b= .13, p < .001). Variables associated with grandchildren’s externalizing behavioral problems were grandchild gender (female: b= -1.18, p = .004), disability status (b= 1.84, p = .006) and grandchild age (b= -.17, p = .003), and grandparent gender (female: b= 1.15, p = .015).
Conclusions and implications: Results suggest the closeness between grandparents and grandchildren plays a protective role in decreasing grandchildren's internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. Furthermore, results point out the importance of addressing conflicts between grandparents and grandchildren in reducing grandchildren’s behavioral problems. The findings of this study imply the need to incorporate grandparent-grandchild relationship building into interventions that aim to address grandchildren’s internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems.