"My hunch is that part of what can drive the long-term increase is the aging of the baby boomers, may of whom are younger grandparents," Livingston said. "They are able to be there for their grandchildren, assuming their help is needed and they weren't living too far away. I can't prove that, but it seems to be suggestive."
Not easy street
The challenges of multigenerational families are sometimes daunting. Generations United says that other factors can also form such families, including the death of a parent, substance abuse, mental illness or other disability or military deployment. Stress is often a driver of change in household structure.
Pew documented the challenges, too. In households where Grandma or Grandpa provide primary care, families have a lower median household income ($36,000 vs. $48,000) and are more apt to live below the poverty line. That's true of nearly 3 in 10 of those grandparent-caregiver families.
"Many of the parents in these households have characteristics suggestive of the need for family assistance," the report said. "For example, 44 percent had a baby as a teen and 12 percent have a disability. One-fifth (21 percent) are unemployed, 29 percent lack a high school diploma and 22 percent are currently enrolled in school."
Generations United says that "the most common multigenerational household arrangement consists of three generations — typically one or more working-age adults, one or more of their children (who may also be adults), and either aging parent(s) or grandchildren." It has noted that, "once a rarity except in some lower-income ethnic communities, the four- or even five-generation household — parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, adult children, their children — is more commonplace and socioleconomically significant."
Among other findings, among children who are primarily cared for by a grandparent, 39 percent are white, 26 percent black, 25 percent Hispanic and 3 percent Asian. And children under age 6 are more likely to live with or be cared for by a grandparent.
Groves became Aiden's legal guardian close to three years ago, when he was a toddler. She's a single grandma, but far from alone in caring for the little boy, who delights her. Her son, his uncle, has become a kind of father figure for the boy, often taking him places and doing guy stuff.
He's a male role model the boy needs, Groves said.
She has other family members, as well, who are willing to step in and help her when she needs it. Still, she admitted, it's hard to parent the second time around, too. "I have had kids since I was 18 years old. I thought I would be at a different place at this point in my life.
"Did I ever think I would be raising a little boy at this stage? Not in a million years," said Groves. "But I wouldn't have it any other way. He's just a happy person and an awesome kid. That outweighs giving up coming and going as I please. He's worth it."
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