(Huff/Post50 is celebrating Grandparents Day, September 9, with a series of special stories and essays.)
Some 60 percent of grandparents served as caregivers to their grandchildren over a ten-year period, and of that group, a whopping 70 percent offered care for two years or more, according to a new study from the University of Chicago based on a National Institute on Aging survey of more than 13,000 people age 50 and older.
"Our findings show that different groups of grandparents are likely to provide different types of care,” noted Linda Waite, sociology professor at the University of Chicago, in a statement. “Importantly grandparents with less income and less education, or who are from minority groups, are more likely to take on care for their grandchildren.” Waite’s findings appear in the September issue of the Journal of Family Issues.
Census data show that 8 percent of grandparents share a household with a grandchild, and 2.7 million grandparents provide for the bulk of their grandchildren’s needs. That’s up from 2.4 million in 2006. Separately, a Census survey found grandparents are also the primary provider of child care for 30 percent of working mothers with kids younger than five.
All of that support is not easy for grandparents, some 60 percent of whom are also in the workforce, according to the Census. Waite notes in the paper that social services are increasingly leaning on family members to step in for parents who can’t care for their children, which has implications for public policy.
"Day care assistance may be particularly needed by middle-aged grandparents who are juggling multiple role obligations — as parent, a grandparent and a paid employee," Waite wrote.
In her research, Waite found that African-American and Hispanic grandparents are more likely than whites to begin and continue a multi-generation household or start a so-called “skipped-generation” household in which the child’s parents are not present.
Grandparents with higher incomes and more education were more likely to provide babysitting, and those who were married were more likely to begin and continue providing childcare. But it’s the grandmothers who step in more often than grandfathers.
Even if they are not primary caregivers, grandparents are increasingly providing financial support, according to a separate study released this month by the MetLife Mature Market Institute in conjunction with the nonprofit Generations United.
Some 62 percent of grandparents have offered monetary help to grandchildren over the past five years, averaging $8,289 -- mostly for investments and education, the study found. The economy is the driving factor: 43 percent of those surveyed cited the Great Recession as the reason for their financial support.
Check out our slideshow below of readers with their grandchildren. If you'd like to add your own special moment, email a photo and description to SayItOnHuffPost50@huffingtonpost.com.
"We bought our grandchildren a battery-powered car. Abby got in and was frustrated that her feet could not reach the pedals. Being the independent and 'assertive' girl that she is, she said to me, 'You, get in, drive' and off we went." <em>-Paula Soffer</em>
"The moment my grandson Charlie was born, it was like falling in love for the first time. When we're together, our time is spent laughing, reading, and playing whatever game Charlie wants to play. There are no limits to the silliness that takes place when we're together! My heart melts each time he smiles when he sees his Grandma Vicki. Charlie Pasternak is my best friend!" <em>-Vicki Pasternak</em>
"I am Ari's Grammie. I live in Dallas and he lives in New York. We don't get to visit in person that much, so we video-chat most days. Thanks to 21st century technology, we are virtual grandparents. We have eaten dinner together, played with toys, and sung. We've watched him reach many milestones like walking thanks to technology. We stay updated, though we wish we lived closer. We cherish the times we actually get to spend with him and hope there will be many more to come." -<em>Michele Kesner</em>
"We are loving being first-time grandparents! Evan is the most precious little boy with the most adorable personality! He makes us laugh and fills our hearts with so much love! If we would have known grandchildren were going to be this much fun, we would have had them first! We are anxiously waiting the arrival of our second grandchild in October!" -<em>Cindy Weinstein</em>
"Hi I'm Stephanie: a young grandmother. I have five of my own grandchildren ages 14 to 16 months and four of my fiancé's grandchildren. I'm considered the cool, active grandma. This is me with Jakob, 10, and Jesi, 9. They are both runners like myself. They have been running for three years and both run 5K races regularly and are at the top of their field. I spend a lot of time with them. Kind of like co-parenting but me being the grandparent." -<em>Stephanie N. Torres</em>
"Alex and me at Gulliver's Kingdom." -<em>Maureen Dean Bartlett </em>
"My grandkids make my inner child come out to play! And what fun we have -- true JOY!!" -<em>Denise Lilly</em>
"I was extremely close to my grandparents and their presence in my life greatly formed my perceptions of food, gardening, my Swedish heritage and the essence of family love generation after generation. I couldn't be more delighted to see my parents evolve the teachings of their parents as they interact with my 1-yr old daughter, who couldn't love her "gamma and gampapa" more. The more love the better, and without grandparents, we'd be missing one of the most important relationships in life." -<em>Jamie Smith</em>
"The best place for a nap is in Grandma's arms! This is Reagan's only living grandparent and she loves her very much." -<em>Alice H</em>
"Alice and me, lovingly admiring every inch of her." -<em>Marília Levacov</em>
"I was in the birthing room when my daughter gave birth, and I even cut the chord. She is now 11 months old and she makes us smile everytime we see her. Now that she and her mother are living wih us, our hearts are filled everyday with so much joy and so much love. And everytime she waves her grandfather smiles from ear to ear." -<em>Helen Scrivener</em>
"A grand love affair! Grandmother born July 10, granddaughter born July 17, exactly 80 years apart! Best friends!" -<em>James Church</em>
"After an exciting and exhausting day of riding Thomas the Tank Engine and visiting Santa Isabelle isn't too tired to appreciate sympathy and a smile from Opa. Izzie is the only girl in our four grandchildren and knows that she is special." -<em>Art Pence</em>
"Grandma Francine & Karley walk with Easter Bonnets on" -<em>Tom Jacobs</em>
"I didn't really want to be a grandparent this early in life, but my little buddy Sarge (aka "Holden Christopher") changed my mind in a hurry. There is no doubt that he favors me. Look at what he "chose" to wear on his very first Halloween. Tie-dye, just like Opa! He is truly a blessing beyond belief." -<em>Dan Walden</em>
"I enjoy my grandchildren so much! Fortunately both my daughters live nearby so I see my grandchilren often. They have grown up together and are very close, I love that! This is a photo of my daughter Misty's birthday. Sitting with her on the sofa are her children Kyle and Jessica, her older son Tyler is in in the back along with his cousins Casey & Jaden." -<em>Michele Taylor</em>
"Happiness is...grandmothering. What better way is there to celebrate a birthday than with grandchildren?" -<em>Suzie</em>