Growing Grandchildren

Nine million grandparents look after their grandchildren every week, with around 44% of children regularly looked after by grandparents. Previous work has identified tensions between parents and grandparents about the ways in which grandparents look after grandchildren, particularly around practices that are risk factors for some cancers (e.g. smoking, unhealthy food and sedentary behaviour). Consequently, grandparents are positioned as poor role models which may limit their access to their grandchildren, and the positive experiences that are to be gained across families from multi-generational parenting. Little work has investigated this area, and there are few interventions with parents and grandparents to address the practices that might impact on children’s long term health.

Growing GrandchildrenThis development study investigates an under researched, but increasingly important, area. Grandparents play a major role in the rearing of their grandchildren, and this is likely to increase in the future with childcare costs high and life expectancy increasing.  

We see the overall impact of this project as raising the profile of an important, under-researched area, addressing a gap in the literature, and as identifying potential strategies to work with parents and grandparents to improve health outcomes in an intervention that can be evaluated.



  • To identify child-rearing practices carried out by grandparents’ that potentially impact their grandchildren’s health.
  • To identify family tensions around grandparents’ child-rearing practices.
  • To identify and explore existing frameworks theorising intergenerational child-rearing practices.
  • To identify strategies to reduce family tensions around grandparents’ child-rearing practices.
  • To develop a logic model and evaluation plan for a pilot intervention around grandparents’ child-rearing practices.
  • To identify academic collaborators and key organisations (non-academic) to take the pilot intervention forward with.


The project is being carried out over three key stages:

  1. A systematic literature review
  2. Indepth interviews with parents and grandparents
  3. Stakeholder interviews and event

Length of project

15 months starting October 2014


Cancer Research UK