Relations between Grandparents and Grandchildren in the Context of the Family System

Oliver Arránz Becker, Anja Steinbach

Abstract


The demographic change which has taken place in recent decades, and in particular the considerable increase in life expectancy, has resulted in intergenerational relationships that are lasting much longer. Despite the increase in people’s median age at first child birth, members of different generations now have the opportunity to live together for periods that are unparalleled in human history. Especially the medical and technical progress has led to grandparents being increasingly capable in both health and cognitive terms at an advanced age that they provide active support for their children and grandchildren in many ways. This article addresses the question to what extent the relationship potentials - also against the background of modernisation processes within society (e.g. increasing demands as to mobility, problems in reconciling family and work) - are transformed into actual support by grandparents for the grandchildren’s generation. The analyses are based on data from the parents of the primary respondents (“anchor persons”) in the German Family Panel (Beziehungs- und Familienpanel - pairfam, 2nd wave 2009/2010, parents’ questionnaire) with a grandchild aged between 8 and 15. The significance of various factors influencing the strength of relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren is empirically examined. Firstly, social-structural characteristics and family-related attitudes on the part of the members of the various generations are considered, and secondly, various family members’ personal and social resources. All in all, it is revealed that grandparent-grandchild relationships are largely independent from personal resources such as employment status, but that they are associated with social resources, that is the relationships between grandparents and parents, as well as with grandparents’ partnership status. Moreover, there are pronounced regional differences (i.e., stronger grandparent-grandchild relations in Eastern Germany) and a positive impact of familialism.

Keywords


Relationships between generations; Grandparents; Grandchildren; Intergenerational support; Pairfam

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