Search Cornell

New book looks at the ‘grandfamily’ phenomenon


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Approximately 1.6 million American children live in what social scientists call “grandfamilies”– households in which children are being raised by their grandparents. A new book by Rachel Dunifon, interim dean of the College of Human Ecology and professor of policy analysis and management, examines this understudied family type, analyzing their unique strengths and distinct needs.

“You’ve Always Been There for Me: Understanding the Lives of Grandchildren Raised by Grandparents” contributes to the fields of family studies and gerontology, shedding new light on the dynamics in grandfamily households.

portrait of Rachel Dunifon

Rachel Dunifon

“My goal is to increase our understanding of an important, but less understood, type of family, and to ‘get under the roof’ of grandfamily households by using a multi-method approach to interviewing teenagers and the grandparents who are raising them,” Dunifon said.

Grandfamilies are largely hidden in American society, flying under the radar of social service agencies, policymakers and family researchers.

“From a research perspective, it is important to broaden our understanding of what we mean when we say ‘family’ and to acknowledge not only the diversity of different family types, but also the many strengths that can be found in various types of families,” she said. “From a policy and practice perspective, my hope is that we will better be able to develop policies and programs to support grandfamilies if we have a better understanding of what life is really like in such households.”

Dunifon traveled across New York state, with research collaborator and Senior Cornell Cooperative Extension Associate Kim Kopko, to interview families in which grandparents were raising grandchildren in New York City, smaller cities, suburbs and very rural communities.

Dunifon and her team worked closely with staff at community agencies throughout the research process, identifying topics to be examined, recruiting families, interpreting results, and using the results to inform current and ongoing programs for families.

“In the vast majority of the grandfamilies I interviewed, the grandparent had been raising the grandchild since a very early age and planned to do so indefinitely,” Dunifon said. “So grandparents are playing a crucial role in society by providing support, both financial and emotional, for their grandchildren.”

According to Dunifon, grandfamilies face financial strain due to not only raising a grandchild on a limited budget during years in which many grandparents are no longer working, but also a very high rate of health problems among both grandparents and grandchildren and repeated legal battles with the child’s parents.

A key takeaway, Dunifon said, is that grandfamilies have many strengths. In particular she noted the frequent and genuine expressions of love and appreciation that grandparents and grandchildren communicate to each other.

Grandparents are grateful for the opportunity to have such a special relationship with their grandchild, say that raising their grandchildren keeps them young, and feel that doing so also gives them a valuable sense of purpose, she said.

In turn, “grandchildren very clearly appreciate that their grandparents rescued them from a very challenging situation living in their parental home and that they provide them with unconditional love and support – as can be seen in the title, which is a quote from one of the teenagers I interviewed,” Dunifon said.

Dunifon’s research focuses on child and family policy, examining the ways in which policies, programs and family settings influence the development of less-advantaged children. She is co-director of Cornell Project 2Gen, which combines research, policy and practice to address the needs of vulnerable children and their parents. Recently, Dunifon and her colleagues were awarded the inaugural William T. Grant Foundation Institutional Challenge Grant for their project “Protecting Vulnerable Children and Families in the Crosshairs of the Opioid Epidemic: A Research-Practice Partnership.” She is the coauthor or coeditor of several books, including “Research for the Public Good.”


Related:

Community input in the formation of Rachel Dunifon’s Role of Grandparents study
Grant unites Project 2Gen, partners in fight against opioids
New book: “Research for the Public Good”

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: children    family    grandparents    Kim Kopko    New York    Rachel Dunifon   

2Gen research briefs inform policymakers


composite image of Cornell Project 2Gen research brief covers

Current Project 2Gen research briefs

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Cornell Project 2Gen published a new series of research briefs designed to inform policymakers about the benefits of the programs and policies that support vulnerable families by supporting parents and their children jointly.

The briefs cover a range of topics that policymakers address including early childhood education, Medicaid and the opioid epidemic.

“Policymakers rarely have time to read peer-reviewed articles, which is the primary dissemination tool for many researchers,” said Elizabeth Day, a post-doctoral associate with Project 2Gen. “Creating briefs is one approach to bridging research and policy because they offer key research findings in an accessible way for a wide range of public audiences.”

The two-generational approach is gaining momentum within research communities across the country because evidence documents a strong connection between parents’ economic, psychological and social well-being and children’s healthy development.

Two-generational programs can begin by focusing on children and then add a component to support parents, such as parent education or skills classes. Others may focus on parents, and then add a component for children, such as child care or nutrition support. Still other approaches target systems that influence families, such as schools or workplaces.

For example, the research brief on early childhood education highlights the importance of child care to serve two purposes: child development and helping parents re-enter the workforce. It also summarizes two important research findings. First, New York State has childcare deserts, where there is not enough care available for working families. Second, a state-run preschool program has had the unintended effect of reducing the availability of childcare for infants and toddlers in rural communities.

Two other briefs provide researchers information on the opioid crisis and evidence-based programs that help to reduce the impact of the opioid crisis. One model offers wrap-around services to expecting mothers who are addicted to drugs, including counseling and drug treatment. The brief also describes family drug treatments courts, which offer parents services to help them stop using drugs and reunite with their families.

And a fourth brief provides information about children on Medicaid, the state-funded health insurance for the poor. Data shows children on Medicaid have better health and better educational outcomes than uninsured children. In addition, when parents are on Medicaid, families are less likely to become impoverished and outcomes improve for children.

“We hope these briefs can support policymakers and practitioners who have interest in these topics,” Day said. “This support may be in the form of providing background on a topic, providing information on what other states are doing legislatively, or suggesting a variety of effective approaches or solutions to problems whenever possible.”


Related:

Elizabeth Day honored with postdoc award
Cornell Project 2Gen sponsors early education research
Celebrating the launch of Cornell Project 2Gen

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: children    Cornell Project 2Gen    Elizabeth Day    family    policy    publication   

Reconciled with a family member? We want to hear from you!


silhouette of four people - two teenagers and two adults who are holding hands - on a shore at sunset

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

What problem is experienced, directly or indirectly, by almost everyone and can cause emotional distress so profound that it lasts for a lifetime?

The answer is estrangement from a family member. More than one-fifth of adults report currently experiencing estrangement from a family member and most families live through an estrangement at some point.

Despite how often family members are cut off from one another, very little research has been conducted on estrangement. There is also scarce professional guidance for families trying to heal a rift among its members.

The Cornell Family Reconciliation Project aims to fill this knowledge gap. The project is seeking people from across the country to contribute their stories of how they reconciled with family members after a rift. The researchers will study these reports about how an estrangement was resolved and offer solutions based on these real-life experiences.

portrait of Karl Pillemer

Karl Pillemer

“There is a lot of information available on how difficult estrangements are and what causes them,” said Karl Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell and the director of the project. “However, what is lacking is the good news – how family members overcome a rift and reconcile. By gathering many reconciliation stories, we hope to contribute knowledge that is useful in resolving such family problems.”

Reconciled family members are invited to share their stories on the Cornell Family Reconciliation Project web site. Also, those interested can participate in the study by volunteering for an anonymous personal interview (sign-up information is on the web site). Based on the information received, Pillemer and his research team will prepare materials designed to offer advice to estranged family members and to the professionals who work with them.

“We invite people to help us understand this complex problem by sharing their stories,” Pillemer said. “The advice from people who have been through estrangement and reconciliation can help thousands of other families.”

(2) Comments.  |   Tags: family    Family Reconciliation Project    Karl Pillemer    research   

Talks at Twelve: Elizabeth Day, Thursday, April 19, 2018

 
portrait of Elizabeth Day

Bridging Policy and Social Science: How Legislators Describe Their Use of Research in Policymaking
Elizabeth Day, Cornell University

Thursday, April 19, 2018
12:00-1:00 PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



Rigorous research and public policy ought to go hand-in-hand; if policymaking were based on hard evidence and dispassionate analysis, it could create the conditions for improving the lives of children, youth, and families. Yet a gap persists in the use of social science to inform public policy in the United States, which may be due, in part, to a lack of understanding as to how legislators utilize research evidence throughout the policy process. Based on in-depth interviews of over 200 state legislators, this presentation explores the uses of research in policymaking based on the unique perspectives of policymakers themselves, with a particular focus on youth and family issues. Implications for research and practice, as well as advice to academics, will also be discussed.

Elizabeth Day is a postdoctoral fellow for Cornell Project 2Gen in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. Her research focuses on bridging research and policy, with a particular focus on adolescent well-being and family policy at the state level. She received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies and Graduate Certificate in Social Policy from Purdue University. Prior to joining the BCTR, Elizabeth was a Society for Research in Child Development Congressional Policy Fellow in the Office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).


Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Botanic Gardens lot across the road from Beebe Hall. No registration or RSVP required except for groups of 5 or more. We ask that larger groups email Lori Biechele at lb274@cornell.edu letting us know of your plans to attend so that we can order enough lunch.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: BCTR Talks at Twelve    children    Cornell Project 2Gen    Elizabeth Day    family    policy    youth   

New book examines incarceration’s impact on children and families


news-2017-incarcerationbook-inpostBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

More than 2 million U.S. children have a parent in prison – a circumstance that impacts individual children as well as our society on the whole.

The newest book in the Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development, When Parents Are Incarcerated: Interdisciplinary Research and Interventions to Support Children (American Psychological Association), analyzes how parental incarceration affects children and what can be done to help them.

The book is edited by Christopher Wildeman, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell, Anna R. Haskins, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell and Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, a professor in the human development and family studies department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The book explores the issues from multi-disciplinary perspectives. Sociologists and demographers used complex techniques to develop causal analyses with a strong focus on social inequality. Developmental psychologists and family scientists explore how micro-level family interactions can moderate the consequences of parental incarceration. Criminologists offer important insights into the consequences of parental criminality and incarceration. And practitioners who design and evaluate interventions review a variety of programs targeting parents, children, and the criminal justice system.

Editors Chris Wildeman, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, and Anna Haskins

Editors Chris Wildeman, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, and Anna Haskins

“The interdisciplinary nature of this book is particularly unique and important, as successful solutions to such complicated issues are beyond the scope of a single approach,” Haskins said. “The perspectives of several disciplines are necessary in broadening understandings around the impact of parental incarceration for inequality among children.”

The work in the book was drawn from the 5th Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner ConferenceMinimizing the Collateral Damage: Interventions to Diminish the Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children. Held during September 2016, the conference included scholars from variety of disciplines and more than 12 institutions and programs.

The book is the fifth in a series of volumes based on research presented at a Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference. The first four books in the series are:

(2) Comments.  |   Tags: book    children    Christopher Wildeman    family    incarceration    inequality   

Celebrating the launch of Cornell Project 2Gen


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Lori Severens, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Lisa Gennetian in panel discussion

Lori Severens, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Lisa Gennetian in panel discussion

At an Oct. 23 symposium, Cornell researchers launched a new Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research initiative: Cornell Project 2Gen, a project that leverages cutting-edge approaches to support vulnerable families and disrupt the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Project 2Gen, led by co-directors Laura Tach and Rachel Dunifon of the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Policy Analysis and Management, focuses on addressing the needs of at-risk children and their parents to capitalize on the strong connection between parents’ well-being and children’s healthy development.

“Project 2Gen takes a two-generational approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable families by supporting research and programs that consider both parents and children,” Dunifon said. “And so the two-gen approach acknowledges that parents’ well-being and children’s well-being are intertwined, and that we really can’t address one without the other.”

According to Dunifon, the project reflects the mission of the College of Human Ecology, which combines that of a land-grant institution and an Ivy League university. Through this focus, the project aims to build a vibrant research community and outreach network.

“Project 2Gen is going to be a hub of innovative work that brings together research, practitioners and policymakers, developing and carrying out work in this area, testing new approaches, evaluating their effectiveness, and implementing them locally and throughout the state,” Dunifon said.

The approach is gaining momentum because research documents a strong connection between parents’ economic, psychological and social well-being and children’s healthy development.

The project, which will leverage collaboration between the work of students and faculty members across Cornell, is developing partnerships with community, state and national organizations and government agencies to support parents and children simultaneously.

Within this approach, there are several methods researchers and practitioners can use. Some two-generational programs begin by focusing on children and then add a component to support parents, such as parent education or skills classes. Others may focus on parents, then add a component for children, such as child care or nutrition support. Still other approaches target systems that influence families, such as schools or workplaces.

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick

The Oct. 23 symposium included a panel of experts focused on the topic Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty: Two-Generation Approaches from Research, Practice and Policy. Panelists were Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, the Frances Willard Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University; Lisa Gennetian, research professor at the Institute for Human Development and Social Change, New York University; Svante Myrick ’09, mayor of Ithaca; and Lori Severens, assistant director at Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

“I want to say thank you for the work you do,” said Myrick, who as a youth took part in the Head Start program, which promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. “My siblings and I all had an opportunity to start working at age 16, and we were all able to be successful because of the work that you’ve done, the research that you’ve done, to prove that this isn’t only the big-hearted thing to do, but the hard-headed thing to do.”

New initiative launched to support vulnerable families - Cornell Chronicle

Save

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: children    Cornell Project 2Gen    family    Laura Tach    media mention    Rachel Dunifon   

Introducing Cornell Project 2Gen


2Gen Logo Final Lockups FV_Vertical ColorBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

BCTR Researchers are launching a new project called Cornell Project 2Gen that focuses on helping vulnerable families by developing programs that support parents and their children jointly.

The approach is gaining momentum within research communities across the country. That’s because research documents a strong connection between parents’ economic, psychological, and social well-being and children’s healthy development.

“The 2Gen approach perfectly fits with the vision of Urie Bronfenbrenner, after whom the BCTR is named,” said Rachel Dunifon, a project leader and professor of policy, analysis and management. “Urie recognized that children develop and grow not in isolation, but in systems, and that in order to affect change, we need to move beyond the individual to incorporate the complex systems in which children live.”

Cornell is kicking the project off with a symposium from 3:00 to 5:00p.m. on October 23 in the Amphitheatre at the Statler Hotel. The symposium will include a panel of experts focused on the topic Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty: Two-Generation Approaches from Research, Practice, and Policy. The panelists are:

  • Lori Severens, Assistant Director at Ascend, The Aspen Institute
  • Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Frances Willard Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
  • Lisa Gennetian, Research Professor, Institute for Human Development and Social Change, New York University
  • Svante Myrick, Mayor, City of Ithaca

Two-generational programs can begin by focusing on children and then add a component to support parents, such as parent education or skills classes. Others may focus on parents, and then add a component for children, such as child care or nutrition support. Still other approaches target systems that influence families, such as schools or workplaces.

At Cornell, Project 2Gen will focus on building a community of scholars focused on 2Gen approaches to support vulnerable families, working with practitioners and policy makers throughout New York and the nation. This year, Cornell Project 2Gen is awarding funding to research projects that use the 2Gen approach to help vulnerable families and will ultimately inform policy and practice in New York State.

Save

Save

(2) Comments.  |   Tags: children    Cornell Project 2Gen    family    Rachel Dunifon   

Improving the health of military families


BPC_150909_c_AR2_ExecutiveSummary.inddBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

BCTR researchers have spent two years helping to improve the health and wellness of military members and their families.

The BCTR’s Military Projects team partnered with researchers from the Cornell Office for Research on Evaluation (CORE) to measure outcomes from the Healthy Base Initiative, a short-term project to demonstrate how healthy eating, exercise, and tobacco cessation can improve the lives of active service members and their families. The results were published earlier this year.

Their work was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Department of Defense launched the project at 14 pilot sites across the world. First, they assessed the health and wellness of the military community at each site, then they implemented a variety of initiatives designed to improve health and wellness, such as fitness programs, menu labeling, cooking seminars, and tobacco cessation campaigns.

BCTR and CORE researchers worked with the Department of Defense Military Community & Family Policy and other researchers to evaluate which initiatives worked the best to help military families lead healthier lifestyles and develop conclusions that will inform a larger wellness initiative across the Department of Defense.

“Health care costs continue to be a large and rapidly growing part of the military budget and include the cost associated with active duty service members and their families as well as military members in the reserve components, retirees, and veterans,” explained Brian Leidy, senior extension associate at the BCTR and director of Military Projects. “Just like in the civilian population, metabolic diseases which are largely preventable through proper diet, exercise, and avoiding tobacco play a major role in the acceleration of these costs.”

The project identified a wide range of recommendations such as encouraging different service branches within the military to work together on health and fitness initiatives, finding ways to offer more healthy food options within military communities, offering childcare while adults exercise or participate in wellness activities, and creating more tobacco-free areas.

You can read the full list of recommendations in the Healthy Base Initiative executive summary and full report.

Save

Save

Save

Save

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Brian Leidy    evaluation    exercise    family    health    military    Military Projects    nutrition    publication    smoking   

Doing Translational Research podcast: Brian Leidy, Monday, December 10, 2018

leidy View Media

Doing Translational Research podcast: Brian Leidy

Evaluating Military Family Programs
Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Brian Leidy
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell University


Evaluating Military Family Programs
Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Brian Leidy
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell University

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Brian Leidy    evaluation    family    military    Military Projects    podcast   

Doing Translational Research podcast: Brian Leidy


0089_12_003.jpgBrian Leidy is director of The Military Projects in the Bronfenbrenner Center. In this podcast episode, Evaluating Military Family Programs, he and Karl discuss the project's work doing process evaluation for the military and the challenges and importance of supporting this unique community.

Brian D. Leidy is a senior extension associate and the principal investigator for the Military Projects in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. This work is funded primarily through grants from USDA/NIFA. He has formerly worked as a managerial consultant for social service agencies and educational institutions evaluating training, social service programs, and policy initiatives; and at Cornell doing training in supervision and administration with adult protective service supervisors and adult home administrators throughout New York State. Prior to coming to Cornell, he worked in public child welfare and mental health programs for children and adolescents.

Doing Translational Research episode 8: Evaluating Military Family Programs with Brian Leidy

Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Save

Save

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Brian Leidy    doing translational research    family    military    Military Projects    podcast