Jessie Piper

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University, Department, Lab:

Kansas State University, College of Health and Human Sciences, Center on Aging

Brief Bio:

I was adopted at the age of 5 and raised by my single grandma who moved me and my younger brother from Arizona to Kansas. I grew up being told I would go to college to change my family’s legacy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but knew I had to do something that would make money. So, I started undergrad as a Psychology and Legal Communication dual-major with the plan to go to Law School. After graduating, I work as a receptionist while preparing for the LSAT but made the last minutes decision to take the GRE instead and go to grad school for a master’s in Family Studies. It was during my first semester that I realized I had a passion for helping families through preventative services and that I wanted to research grandfamilies – mostly motivated by my personal experience. Between my master’s and my PhD I worked for a number of years as a preschool director. I loved working with the kids and getting to make a difference in families lives, but it wasn’t the niche I was looking for. So, I went back for my PhD and am now doing what I love. Most of my practical work has been in the K-State Research and Extension area and my research has focused on grandparents raising grandchildren.

Current Research Question:

For my Ph.D. dissertation, my research questions were: RQ1: What distinct profiles of grief and loss, stress, empowerment, resilience, and perceived support exist within a sample of grandfamilies? RQ2: What background demographics and characteristics predict profile membership?RQ3: How does profile membership predict health?

Background on Research:

Grandfamilies, or grandparents raising their grandchildren, are a heterogeneous group. These differences make it hard to develop preventative services that are all-encompassing and able to meet their diverse needs. My dissertation will help distinguish if these families fall into groups based off their experience of grief, loss, stress, empowerment, resilience, and perceived support. I would hypothesis that those with high grief/loss/stress would have low empowerment/resilience/support, and vice versa. Understanding their demographics and characteristics can give us some context to the groupings and predicting health will help us start to make progress in distinguishing what outcomes might come from certain group memberships. The ultimate goal of the research is to provide better supports for all grandfamilies in the most efficient and useful way.

Overview of MDissertation Flyerethods:

For my dissertation specifically, I am using online surveys to collect data with grandparents that are currently raising or who have in the past raised their grandchildren. Grandparents are answering questions about each of those above topics: grief, loss, stress, empowerment, resilience, perceived support, and health. To analyze the data, I will conduct a latent profile analysis – in other words, a fancy statistical analysis to see how they group together based off their answers to my questions.

Connect with Jessie Piper:

Jessie is very open to connecting in a multitude of ways. She is well-versed in giving presentations to groups of people, having one on one conversations, meeting in small groups to collaborate, emailing or virtually interacting to discuss and answer questions, or creating content for educating the public in various modes. Her biggest goal with the Science Communication Fellowship at Sunset Zoo is to bring awareness to the existence and experience of grandfamilies and activate others to make moves to better support them.  Let Sunset Zoo's Behind the Science staff help you connect with Jessie Piper by emailing