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NZ Families Commission Press release 5 March 2010

Media release

05 March 2010


Kiwi grandparents face new challenges and changing roles



A new Families Commission report says most grandparents are faring well, but a small number are struggling – in particular grandparents raising grandchildren.


The Commission’s Changing Roles research paints an intricate picture of grandparents’ lives, views, and needs. The survey questioned more than 1200 people about a range of issues related to their role as grandparents in New Zealand.


Commissioner Christine Rankin says that the report’s findings demonstrate the diversity of grandparents’ roles today.


“Grandparents are as varied and diverse as are families themselves. And therefore their needs are changing in many ways. For example, not all grandparents are older people. Some first become grandparents in their thirties.  Grandparents may also be juggling paid work and caregiving responsibilities, as well as other commitments.”


Separation and re-marriage mean that grandparents, like other family members, are part of complex family structures. A child might have a step-grandparent because a grandparent has re-married. Or it could be that a parent has re-married, and their new partner brings with them an additional set of grandparents for their children.


“Global mobility and cross-cultural relationships can add richness as well as complexity to family life, with some families spanning continents. Distance impedes grandparents’ ability to share cultural and other forms of knowledge and to be actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives, but many grandparents find creative ways to maintain strong family ties across the miles.”


Commissioner Rankin applauded recent moves by the Minister of Social Development to support grandparents raising grandchildren and called for further action.


Most of the grandparents raising grandchildren interviewed in the Changing Roles study had become full-time caregivers because the parents were either unable or unwilling to care for their children.


“Last year the Government made an excellent first step by announcing that holiday camps will be made available to children being raised by their grandparents,” Ms Rankin says. “This created an important opportunity for respite for grandparents. However we would encourage the Government to do even more, as an investment in the wellbeing of children and society generally.


“For example, some grandparents raising grandchildren had found it difficult to obtain clear information about their legal rights and eligibility for financial support. And there were calls for improvements in the range of support for grandparents who have taken on the role of primary caregiver for their grandchildren. Our research gives some sound backing to those calls. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is growing.”



Link to research:





Steve Attwood
Group Manager Communications and Public Awareness
04 917 7073
029 917 7073


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