This study contributes in-depth knowledge about informal childcare and family processes in East Asian families in Hong Kong in a time of rapid economic and social development. We explore how families negotiate grandparent childcare and how parents and grandparents manage intergenerational tensions and conflict.
The common way of understanding intergenerational relationships in childcare is to focus on the positive experience of taking care of grandchildren, but there is limited discussion on the tension and conflicts that also occur between the generations.
This qualitative study is based on in-depth interviews with 14 parents and 12 grandparents about childcare arrangements for 53 children within East Asian families in Hong Kong.
Tensions are found among the parents and grandparents in childcare provision, and considerable negotiation and ongoing emotional management of relationships is required.
Grandparent childcare is an important resource for many families, but it might not suit all. The issues of autonomy, seniority, power, respect, and different expectations of care are embedded in established family dynamics. Some intergenerational problems are unable to be settled by the family members.
Grandparent childcare should be a care option provided for families with young children. However, it should not be a substitute for childcare services and supports outside the home. Professional family services also should be sensitive to intergenerational family dynamics.