Making Sense of Intergenerational Closeness and Distance: The Case of Grandparent Caregivers in Uganda

By Gloria K. Seruwagi.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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In the wake of the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, the critical role played by grandparents in caring for children has been highlighted by a growing body of evidence. The focus of most research has been on the economic strain faced by most grandparent-headed households, as well as the frailty and vulnerability of both grandparents and the children under their care. This phenomenological study explored the relational aspects of grandparents and children in their care. It emerged that the relationship between the two is very strong and unconditional, with less cases of abuse when compared to children with younger caregivers. The grandparent-child relationship is also mutually enforcing - both groups are givers and receivers of care. Grandparents act as links to the past while their grandchildren are links to the future. Acting as a strong support system for each other, they have been able to survive in the midst of a harsh socio-economic environment. In spite of this closeness however, there are some fragile aspects which threaten to undermine the grandparent-child relationship. Largely overlooked in other research, these fragile aspects are present in critical areas like child development, education, and health. The lack of socioeconomic resources exacerbates this precarious situation, while the fact that these challenges are not highlighted in research, policy, and practice means that they are likely to continue unabated. This paper calls for an increased understanding of the paradox involving intergenerational closeness and distance; it also proposes solutions to challenges presented.

Keywords: Kinship Care, Grandparent Care, Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Intergenerational Gap

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, August 2014, pp.77-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 470.320KB).

Dr. Gloria K. Seruwagi

Lecturer, Victoria University, Uganda