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Prevalence and Predictors of Grandparent Childcare in Ireland: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample of Infants and their Families

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Anecdotal evidence suggests that grandparents provide a substantial amount of childcare support to parents of infants in Ireland yet there has been little attention to the provision of grandparent childcare at policy level. Using nationally representative data on childcare provision in the Republic of Ireland, this study examined the prevalence of grandparent childcare provision for very young children, and associations between this choice of childcare and key infant, family, and community factors. Using archived data from the Infant Cohort of the Growing Up in Ireland study, descriptive data regarding use of grandparents as childcare providers were outlined. A series of bivariate analyses were then conducted to examine the independent association between a range of infant, family, and community variables and use of grandparent childcare. Finally, a multivariate analysis using binomial logistic regression was used to examine the association of each of these variables in a fully adjusted model. The results show that 38.6% of infants experienced non-parental childcare: 12.4% were looked after by grandparents, 15.7% by other home-based carers and 10.5% in childcare centres such as crèches. Grandparents were the cheapest source of childcare but also provided fewer hours on average. Multivariate analysis indicated the importance of parental income, age, and education in choosing grandparental childcare, with younger, less well-off parents using grandparent childcare more than any other type of childcare. The findings suggest that, whether by choice or by economic pressure, grandparents represent a huge resource in terms of providing childcare for infants. Current childcare policy needs to be cognisant of the significant contribution of grandparents in helping families with young children participate in the labour force. Constraints on the amount of care grandparents are able to provide may have knock-on constraints for parents' participation in the labour force and earnings.
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Keywords: Childcare; Grandparents; Infants; Ireland; Policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 3, 2014

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