New National Child Care Survey Reveals Joys and Challenges Facing Grandparents Today

Research shows 1 in 4 children under 5 cared for by grandparents, filling a gap in child care.

Washington, D.C., September 9, 2019 – ZERO TO THREE today released the Grand Plan, a national survey highlighting the joys and challenges faced by grandparents who are caregivers for their grandchildren. Parents searching for child care today are frequently turning to one of their most valued resources – their own parents. One in 4 children under the age of five are cared for by grandparents while their parents work or go to school, roughly the same number enrolled in formal child care programs. Grandparents fill a major gap in child care in this country, care that is otherwise unavailable or unaffordable to many.

The research found that over 90 percent of survey respondents love being a grandparent and love caring for their grandchildren. The primary reason grandparents take on the role was a need to “help their adult children” (71%), along with a desire to develop closer relationships with their grandchildren (65%) and out of a sense of family duty (54%). While many grandparents are more than willing to help with child care, they often report feeling stressed when managing children’s challenging behavior and navigating the “co-parenting” relationship with their adult children.

“Grandparents are filling a child care gap in a unique way that brings them closer to their grandchildren, as well as their adult children,” stated Rebecca Parlakian, Senior Director of Programs at ZERO TO THREE. “And while there might be challenges, nearly every grandparent we talked to told us how much they love playing such an important part in their grandchildren’s lives. While the research on parenting changes over time, one thing that has stayed true is that we have much to learn from those who came before us, and they have so much to offer our children today.”

Read the key findings from The Grand Plan here, along with a new infographic and a series of resources that support families who rely on grandparents for their child care needs. Ranging from tools for navigating disagreements between parents and grandparent caregivers, to the latest guidance on topics like screen time and tantrums, these resources are designed to help families navigate sharing the care.

Other findings revealed from grandparents:

  • 81 percent are confident in their ability to care for their grandchildren and are happy with the quality of care they provide.

  • 70 percent believe they have more patience and 67% have a clearer sense of what’s important from when they raised their own children.

  • 74 percent agree that it’s scarier raising children today because there’s more danger and violence in the world.

  • 89 percent satisfied with their current caregiving arrangement, but there are difficulties. Almost half (48%) feel some level of disagreement or tension between generations, like handling tantrums, navigating mealtime, and managing screen time.

  • 2 out of 5 find caring for a young child is tiring, and 1 out of 5 say it’s stressful.

  • In multi-generational households, grandparents reported experiencing more stress (26% vs. 19%) and a more complicated relationship with their adult children (57% vs 45%).

  • For 8 out of 10 families, grandparents did not receive any monetary compensation for their time spent caring for grandchildren. They instead reported benefits like spending time with grandchildren, shaping their early experiences, and ensuring their grandkids get the best care.

Key findings from The Grand Plan can be found at

ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, please visit,, or follow @zerotothree on Twitter.

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    Max Samis

    Communications Manager, Media and Public Relations