Deep within the hills of Appalachia grandparents are stepping into the familiar role of parenting as many have become the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. These grandparent-headed households (GHHs), a form of kinship care, have increased largely in response to the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the region; children are often left in the care of grandparents as parents experience substance use disorders and, in turn, incarceration. According to the US Census Bureau, over seven million grandparents live with their own grandchildren; over 32 percent of which serve as caregivers and are responsible for these children. The impact of kinship care weighs heavily on children and their caregivers and many often struggle with the financial and mental toll such situations can play on overall wellbeing. They face numerous challenges, including an increased risk of poverty, lack of food security, and social isolation. However, despite these challenges, many grandparent caregivers appreciate and acknowledge the benefits of raising grandchildren. Mass media also has an impact on these caregiver situations, as journalists serve as the gatekeepers of information to audiences and in turn, bear the weight of informing the public of such community issues. By performing a content analysis of several Appalachian news organizations and their coverage of addiction and grandparent-headed households, over a period of six years, alongside personal journalistic written coverage specific to Kentucky and podcast titled “Homestead”, I will argue the negative impact of Appalachian opioid use on children and the creation of GHHs, and the issue’s overarching portrayal in media.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2023


Ginny Whitehouse

Mentor Department Affiliation


Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level