Health and Functioning in Grandparents After a Young Grandchild's Death

J Community Health. 2015 Oct;40(5):956-66. doi: 10.1007/s10900-015-0018-0.


This cross-sectional study examined the physical and mental health, grief and role functioning of 136 grandparents in the first year after death of their young grandchild (newborn through 6 years). Grandparents were 36-77 years old; 73% female; 24% Hispanic, 38% Black/African American, and 38% White. Mean age of the 115 deceased grandchildren was 12.8 months (SD = 20.71) with 37% <1 month old; 65% were male, 77% died in the hospital. Grandparents were recruited through state death records and interviewed by telephone. Grandparents experienced: clinical depression (31%), PTSD (35%); illnesses (28%), hospitalizations, new chronic health conditions (mental disorders, hypertension, angina, cancer), and medication changes. Grandparents who provided care for the deceased grandchild had more intense symptoms of grief, depression and PTSD and more trouble focusing at their jobs. Severity of depressive and/or PTSD symptoms were more likely to be at clinically important levels for grandparents who had provided childcare for the deceased grandchild than for non-caregiving grandparents. Black grandparents had more severe symptoms of PTSD and thought more about their deceased grandchild on the job than White grandparents. The interaction effect of race/ethnicity and provision of child care was significant for PTSD and Blame and Anger. Hispanic grandparents who provided some child care for their deceased grandchild had less severe PTSD symptoms than caregiving Black and White grandparents. Caregiving Hispanic grandparents also experienced less Blame and Anger than White caregiving grandparents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Care
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Death*
  • Depressive Disorder / ethnology
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Grandparents / psychology*
  • Grief*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intergenerational Relations / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / ethnology