chapter  4
20 Pages

Health and Grandparenting among 13 Carib bean (and one Latin Amer i can) Immi grant Women in the United States

How does the involvement in childcare shape immigrant grandmothers’ health? How does health shape the ability to care for grandchildren? The answers to these questions vary with the cultural contexts of grandmothering. There is a dearth of scholarly works regarding new immigrant grandparents and health, mostly those who emigrated from the Caribbean. In 2010, more than 50% of all U.S. immigrants were from Latin America and the Caribbean (Grieco, Acosta, de la Cruz, Gambino, Gryn, Larsen, Trevelyan, and Walters, 2012). This is a change in U.S. immigration patterns of the past 50 years whereby new immigrants are originating from non-European countries. This study explores the special challenges immigrant grandmothers from Latin America and the Caribbean face as they provide care for their grandchildren. Using a lifecourse approach and emphasizing the impacts of cumulative inequality, I conducted in-depth interviews with 14 immigrant noncustodial grandmothers from the Caribbean and Latin America who provide care for their grandchildren. I examine the lived experiences of these grandmothers and how they perceive their grandmothering role in the United States contrasted with the cultural expectations of their native countries. First, I explore the links between health and grandmothering to see how cultural expectations complicate grandmothering for immigrant women: I find that the grandmothers struggle to balance competing expectations about joy vs. duty, tolerance vs. discipline, gendered roles vs. cultural roles, and economic insufficiency vs. religion abundancy. Then I explore how providing grandchild care shapes grandmothers’ health, including their ability to exercise, see doctors, eat healthily, and manage chronic diseases. I find that taking care of their grandchildren may have an impact on these healthy behaviors.