Native Hawaiian Grandparents: Exploring Benefits and Challenges in the Caregiving Experience

Mokuau, N.
Browne, C. V.
Ka‘opua, L. S.
Higuchi, P.
Sweet, K. M.
Braun, K. L.
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Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Background: Increasingly, U.S. grandparents are raising their grandchildren. In Hawai‘i, 12% of Native Hawaiian grandparents live with grandchildren, compared to 7% of grandparents in all races combined in the state, and to 3.6% of grandparents in the total U.S. Although strong family-centric cultural values may provide Native Hawaiian grandparents with caregiving benefits, a generally poor health profile suggests they may also face challenges in this role. In this study, we talked to Native Hawaiian grandparents raising grandchildren (GRG) about the benefits and challenges of their caregiving experiences. Method: Three focus groups were conducted with Native Hawaiian grandparents (n=33) in Hawai‘i who were 55 years of age or older and caregivers to their grandchildren. Findings: The most prevalent themes voiced by grandparents spoke of the benefits of being a grandparent caregiver (the greatest being the experience of mutual, unconditional love) and the enjoyment of passing on “life lessons” to their grandchildren. Grandparents identified concrete examples of what they provided to grandchildren and also spoke of their role in transmission of Native Hawaiian cultural values, practices, and stories to their grandchildren. A number of challenges pertaining to grandparent caregiving were identified along with needed services—respite care, financial assistance, children’s programs, and information on grandparent legal rights. Despite these challenges, grandparents preferred to seek help from extended family rather than from formal supports. Our results support previous research on a number of universal GRG needs and services (i.e., legal rights of GRG) but also suggest potential directions to meeting the needs of Native Hawaiian GRG that are responsive to indigenous cultural values and preferences. Given the number of unmet needs expressed, further research is needed to design interventions for this population of grandparents raising grandchildren.
Mokuau, N. et al. (2015). Threading, Stitching, and Storytelling: Using CBPR and Blackfoot Knowledge and Cultural Practices to Improve Domestic Violence Services for Indigenous Women. Journal of Indigenous Social Development, 4(1).
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