Given a marked increase in the number of grandparents who play a caregiving role for their grandchildren, there is a parallel urgency for more research involving grandparent–grandchild dyads.
The aim of this study was to describe methodological challenges we encountered when conducting grandparent–grandchild dyadic research, some of which were challenges specific to working with dyads where the grandparents were caregivers to the child participants and others, which were challenges of a sort that might be encountered in any research involving data collection with multigenerational family units and, in particular, multigenerational family units including older adults.
During and after an observational study conducted by the researchers involving grandparent–grandchild dyads, we explored challenges we encountered and strategies for improving our research outcomes.
We found several challenges specific to grandparent–grandchild dyads, including complications with reaching legal guardians to obtain permission for child participants; collecting accelerometer data from grandchildren was difficult, particularly if the grandparents did not live with their grandchildren; and participants who had various preferences for data collection methods. We also found challenges that might be found with any family context dyadic research, particularly involving older adults and across multiple generations, including relatively low follow-up response rates from those grandparents who initially expressed interest and a need for an extended data collection period. We employed targeted strategies to overcome those obstacles, and in this article, we describe the outcomes of those strategies.
Recommendations from our results include the following: (a) find a way to involve the parents and/or legal guardian as early as possible, (b) have multiple team members involved in recruitment/data collection, (c) be flexible about data collection methods, (d) use flexible scheduling, and (e) use multiple simultaneous recruitment activities/multiple advertisement channels. Additional strategies include enhancing children’s sense of control during the consent process, simplifying study procedures, considering usability when creating online data surveys, and identifying power dynamics within the families.
The insights we gained will be useful for informing future family context dyadic research, in particular, research involving grandparent–grandchild dyads.