Extended Caregiving Arrangements in Families from Chinese Backgrounds Project

Project Status

Chief investigators
Cathy O’Callaghan, SEaRCH, UNSW, Ben Harris-Roxas, Director, SEaRCH, UNSW, Rachael Kearns, Research Officer, UNSW, Ronnie Wang, Bilingual Research Assistant (BRA), UNSW, Wing Fu, Interpreter and Translator, UNSW, Gayathri Dharmagesan, Research Assistant, UNSW

Team members
Lisa Woodland, Manager, Priority Populations, SESLHD, Michelle Jubelin, Director, Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS), SESLHD, Amanda Webster, Manager, Strategy & Equity, CYFS, SESLHD, Susan Woolfenden, Staff Specialist, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, Tania Rimes, Families First Project Manager, CYFS, SESLHD, Meng Chen, Multicultural Health Officer, St George Hospital, SESLHD

Project Coordinators
Multicultural Health Service (MHS) and Child Youth and Families Service (CYFS) at South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD)

Project Rationale

The Chinese community (Mandarin speaking) is the largest non-English speaking and country of birth group in SESLHD, as well as the community with the most population growth in the past five years. Chinese grandparents play a vital role looking after grandchildren as part of the traditional extended family structure. However difficulties are encountered in trying to maintain extended family relations in the context of migration. Grandparents can face physical, social and emotional difficulties through becoming the primary caregiver for infants and young children in a new country. Within SESLHD, government and non-government have raised concerns about infants and young children who have demonstrated behavioural issues when there is a change in primary caregiver arrangements.

There a scarcity of research on the: experience of infants and young children while transitioning between grandparents and other care providers; support needs of Chinese grandparents while looking after grandchildren in a transnational/immigrant context; and development and success of culturally appropriate interventions to support transnational extended families to enhance child development and wellbeing. This research takes a wholistic approach to understanding the experience of children, parents, grandparents and service providers when children are cared for by, and transitioning between, grandparents/multiple caregivers.

Project Aim/s

The objectives were to:

  • explore issues arising for children, parents, grandparents and service providers when children are being cared for by grandparents/multiple caregivers;
  • explore strategies to support children while transitioning between grandparents and other care providers; and
  • develop culturally sensitive approaches for use by service providers (child and family health nurses, childcare workers, playgroup coordinators, family support workers and kindergarten teachers) when working with extended families of Chinese background. 

Project Design and Method

The methods consisted of a qualitative research design of interviews with service providers, and Chinese speaking parents and grandparents.


  • O’Callaghan C, Kearns R, Harris-Roxas B, Woodland L and Dharmagesan G (2021) Extended Caregiving Arrangements for Families from Chinese Backgrounds Project: Research Findings and Implications Report, SEaRCH, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity (CPHCE), UNSW
  • O’Callaghan C (2018) Literature review: Chinese grandparents caring for grandchildren (0-5), Multicultural Health Service, SESLHD, Conjoint Senior Lecturer, SEaRCH, UNSW
  • Extended caregiving arrangements in families from Chinese backgrounds Final Report