Grandmothers Often Eager to Help Mother of New
Grandchild But Seldom Cure Baby Blues
Married and single mothers suffer
higher rates of depression when they live with grandparents; not so for
unmarried living with partner
5, 2014 - Does living with grandparents ease
or worsen a mothers' baby blues? The answer appears to depend on the
mother's marital status, a new study from Duke University suggests.
Having a grandmother in the house
seems to work great for reducing depression in the first year of the
babys life if the mother is not married but lives with her romantic
partner and one or more grandparents in the house.
It does not seem to work well for
married and single moms. They suffer higher rates of depression when
they live in multi-generational households in their baby's first year of
life, the study found.
The pattern held true for rich,
poor and middle class women.
The findings varied by race,
however, with Latina single mothers faring especially poorly in
multi-generational households. Latina single moms were six times more
likely to experience depression if they lived in multi-generational
households in their child's first year of life than if they did not.
The variance between subgroups may
partly reflect differing expectations and stigmas, said lead author Joy
Piontak, a research analyst with the Duke University Center for Child
and Family Policy. For instance, married couples commonly expect to
maintain a separate household. Cohabiting couples don't always face the
same expectations, as other researchers have noted.
"There's a strong expectation that
married couples will be economically self-sufficient," Piontak said.
"Those are strong cultural values. So there could be a stronger sense of
failure among married couples if they have to live with their parents."
Still, Piontak cautioned that she
can't say for certain what causal relationship is at play. Living with
grandparents may worsen depression for single and married mothers. Or,
depressed single and married moms may be less likely to move out from a
Also, no information was available
regarding relationship quality within the households. Such data could
shed further light on how household composition may affect mental
health, Piontak said.
The study, which drew upon a
nationally representative sample of nearly 3,000 married, single and
cohabiting mothers, is unusual in its focus on multi-generational
families. While single mothers have captured a great deal of scholarly
and popular attention, three-generation households remain
Yet such households are quite
common. Some 7.8 million children, or 11 percent of all U.S. children,
live in multi-generational households. Such living arrangements are even
more common among certain subgroups. For instance, nearly half of all
children born to single mothers spend some time living with their
Piontak said she hopes more
scholars will consider this increasingly common form of American family
"We often talk about families in
terms of mothers, fathers and children," Piontak said. "Or we talk about
the marital status of the mothers. Families are often a lot more complex
than we imagine them to be, though. And that complexity can affect
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