Grandparents provide a significant percentage of child care to grandchildren in Australia, and this trend is echoed in other Western cultures such the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and New Zealand. As such, many researchers within psychology are attempting to explain the impacts grandparents can have, not only on grandchildren, but on family functioning as a whole. This dissertation describes the development and evaluation of Grandparent Triple P, a program designed specifically for grandparents. Chapter 1 provides a rationale and overview of this thesis.
Chapter 2 discusses the impacts, both positive and negative, that grandparents have on family functioning; reviews the empirical research concerning intervention programs available for grandparents; and puts forward the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) as an evidence-based parenting program that could be modified to assist grandparents.
Chapter 3 discusses the importance of engaging consumers in the program design stage of interventions. This chapter emphasises the need for program developers to consider the views of consumers when modifying existing evidence-based programs to target populations. This chapter argues that the adoption of a consumer’s perspective to program design ultimately leads to programs that have a better “ecological fit” to the needs of that target population. Triple P is used as an example on how to utilise a consumer’s perspective to program design.
Chapter 4 provides an example of how to engage with consumers through utilising focus groups to adapt evidence-based parenting programs to new populations. We conducted a series of focus groups with 14 grandparents (11 females, 3 males) aged 45–76 years (M = 60.14) the majority of whom provided 11–20 hours of care per week to their grandchild. A thematic analysis indicated that grandparents have difficulty managing the relationship with the parents and remembering effective parenting strategies. We conclude by suggesting that an existing evidence based parenting program should be modified specifically for grandparents and it should include information aimed at helping refresh parenting practices, build on effective coping skills, and include partner-support strategies to help improve the grandparent–parent relationships.
Chapter 5 describes an uncontrolled case study of a grandparent participating in the newly developed ‘Grandparent Triple P’ (GTP) program. A 56-year-old grandmother, who provides 31-40 hours of care per week to her two-year-old granddaughter, took part in GTP. The grandparent encountered great difficulty managing this caregiving role, as she often had parenting-related arguments and disputes with her daughter (the 24-year-old parent), while also experiencing stress and depressive symptoms as a result of her caregiving role. After completing the program, the grandparent reported significant reductions in stress, anxiety and depression; improved relationship satisfaction with the parent; and decreased reliance on dysfunctional parenting practices. The parent also reported decreased child behaviour problems and increased relationship satisfaction with the grandparent. This case study provides encouraging findings for the GTP program.
Chapter 6 reports on the efficacy of the GTP program. Fifty-four grandparents (M = 60.89) and 48 parents (M = 34.52) participated in the evaluation. Grandparents predominantly provided between 12 and 20 hours of care per week (64.81%), to a grandchild (62% male) aged between 2-9 years (M = 4.42). Families were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (intervention or care-as-usual) and were assessed using a multiple informant approach at three time points (preintervention, postintervention and six-month follow-up). Relative to the care-as-usual group, significant short-term improvements were found in the intervention group on grandparent-reported child behaviour problems; parenting confidence; grandparent depression, anxiety, stress; and improved relationship with the parent. Parents reported significant reductions in child behaviour problems. Short-term effects were predominantly maintained at six-month follow-up. The results indicate that GTP was efficacious in improving the mental health and well being of grandparents, parents, and grandchildren.
Chapter 7 continues the consumer development and evaluation theme by investigating how grandparents providing regular child care to their grandchildren view the specific strategies advocated in a parenting program developed for them. Forty-five grandparents, with an average age of 61.40 years (SD = 5.02) participated in the study. Predominantly grandparents provided between 11 and 20 hours of care per week to their grandchild, who was on average 4.46 years old (SD = 2.44). Results revealed that grandparents found the strategies promoted in the parenting program highly acceptable, useful, and were likely to use the strategies. Barriers to using specific strategies included time demands and beliefs that specific strategies would not work. This chapter demonstrates that engaging with consumers during the program development stage and gauging their views on acceptability can enhance the ecological fit and uptake of programs for specific consumer groups.
Collectively, this PhD dissertation aims to demonstrate how actively engaging with consumers can help produce a parenting program which has better ecological fit with a grandparent target population, and that can produce meaningful and significant changes for families.