Grandchildcare in Ireland

30 September 2016  |  Admin

LEARNING ON THE JOB: PARENTING IN MODERN IRELAND / Colm O'Doherty & Ashling JacksonWe do not know how many people in Ireland are grandparents. The national census does not ask whether people are grandparents nor whether they provide childcare to grandchildren. Moreover, parents are not asked whether their children receive grandchildcare. Thus we must rely on large-scale surveys, such as Growing Up in Ireland and TILDA to reveal the extent of the practice.

Though it has proven difficult to measure, a number of studies do indicate the prevalence of grandparent childcare in Ireland. The data examines the issue from three perspectives: the child’s, the parents’ (usually mothers’), and the grandparents’.

European Social Survey data (Jappens and Van Bavel, 2012) indicates that Ireland is similar to other EU countries such as The Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and Finland, in that from a quarter to a third of employed mothers use grandparents as their main source of childcare. In Ireland, it is difficult to generate comparative data, as different studies use different measures and definitions, and there are many confounding factors (such as age and number of children, full and part-time work, and so on).

Fine-Davis et al (2002) reported that 17% of employed mothers in Ireland used grandparents as the main source of care for their youngest child. A decade later, the GUI study (Table 12.2) indicates that 12% of children at 9 months of age (mothers employed or not) are looked after by grandparents. For those families who make use of non-parental childcare, grandparent care is the most popular (at 32% of families), followed by crèche/childcare centre (27%) and childminder/au pair/nanny (20%) (McGinnity et al, 2013, p.57). As children get older, the use of grandparent care declines: in the GUI study, by the time the 9 month olds were 3 years of age, 9% were being cared for by their grandparents, compared to 12% at age 9 months.

A rather different picture emerges when questions about care of grandchildren are asked of the carers themselves. In the TILDA study, Irish people aged 50 years and over were asked about their involvement in care of grandchildren: 35% reported that they ‘took care’ of their grandchildren for at least one hour a week (McCrory et al, 2014, p.176).

We cannot say that there is a contradiction between the two sets of data: rather, different perspectives and definitions are at play. Also, in the absence of census data, there is considerable variation in the scope and focus of the survey data that is available. More work is required to clarify what is happening in Ireland in relation to grandparent care.

Extracted from Chapter 12: Grnndchildcare: Grandparents & Childcare in Ireland by Michelle Share & Liz Kerrins in LEARNING ON THE JOB: PARENTING IN MODERN IRELAND, edited by Colm O'Doherty and Ashling Jackson.