For working parents, having grandparents as caregivers
can cut the risk of childhood injury
roughly in half, according to a new study by researchers
from the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Compared to organized daycare or care by the mother or
other relatives, having a grandmother
watch a child was associated with a decreased risk of
injury for the child. The study is among the
first to examine the relationship between grandparents'
care and childhood injury rates. The results
are published in the November issue of
The researchers also examined the connections between
family structure and the likelihood of
injury. According to the researchers, the odds of injury
were significantly greater for children whose
parents never married compared with children whose mothers
stayed married throughout the child's
life. Similarly, odds of injury were greater for children
living in homes in which the father did not co-
reside. These associations were independent of family
"Recent growth in the number of grandparents providing
child care has some observers
concerned they don't adhere to modern safety practices,"
said lead study author David Bishai, a
professor in the Bloomberg School's
Department of Population, Family and Reproductive
Health. "To the contrary, this research tells us not
only is there no evidence to support this assumption, but
families that choose grandparents to care for their
children experience fewer child injuries."
Bishai and colleagues analyzed data from the National
Evaluation of the Healthy Steps for
Young Children Program, which includes information on more
than 5,500 newborns enrolled in 15 U.S.
cities in 1996-97 with follow-up for 30 to 33 months. Data
on child-care arrangements reported by
the mother were linked to claims reporting children's
doctor's office visits, allowing researchers to
identify medically attended injuries.
"As injuries are the No. 1 cause of death for children
in the United States, it's critical we
continue to determine risk and protective factors," said
Andrea C. Gielen, a co-author of the study
and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy
in the Department of Health Policy and
Management at the Bloomberg School. "Additional studies of
how households choose relatives to
watch their children and the actual care-giving style of
grandparents are warranted because the
protective effect of grandparents may depend on choosing
the right grandparent."
Additional authors of the study are Jamie L. Trevitt,
Yiduo Zhang, Lara B. McKenzie, Tama
Leventhal and Bernard Guyer.
The research was funded by a grant from the Maternal
and Child Health Bureau R40MC05475.