Grandparents and child care in Australia

Being a grandparent means taking on a new family role. For some grandparents, this role involves connecting with family through visits and family activities. Other grandparents take a more active role, helping to look after grandchildren, and supplementing or substituting other kinds of child care. This research report focuses on this caring role, exploring grandparent child care from the perspective of the grandparents themselves.

This mixed-methods research uses the third Families in Australia Survey, which ran May–June 2021 and included a module targeted at grandparents and the child care they provide or would like to provide. A total of 2,383 survey respondents self-identified as grandparents. Given the over-representation of females in this survey, most of them were grandmothers.

The main focus of this report is on child care provided by grandparents, the reasons for this grandparent child care, and also how grandparents experience this child care. This expands on earlier findings about grandparent child care from previous Families in Australia Surveys (Carroll, Budinski, Warren, Baxter, & Harvey, 2021). In addition, the research explores barriers to grandparent child care, which includes the impact of COVID-19.

For a summary version of this report, see the Grandparents and child care research snapshot.

Key messages

  • Two in five grandparents with a grandchild aged under 13 years were providing some child care. The proportion providing child care was higher (63%) if the youngest grandchild was under 10 years rather than 10–12 years (33%).

  • Just over one in four grandparents with a grandchild aged under 13 years were providing child care at least once a week. More frequent child care was more likely for younger grandchildren.

  • Grandparent child care is more often on a casual or occasional basis (62% of those providing child care), compared to regular (39%) or school holiday (26%) child care. About one in five grandparents provide a combination of these, such as providing school holiday child care as well as occasional child care.

  • Most often, grandparents provide child care to support parents’ work. Grandparents’ desire to connect and build relationships with grandchildren and family was fundamental to them taking on this child care.