Grandparental partnership status and its effects on caring for grandchildren in Europe Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Grandparents are important childcare providers, but grandparental relationship status matters. According to several studies, caregiving is reduced after grandparental divorce, but differential responses by grandmothers versus grandfathers have often been glossed over. To explore the effects of relationship status on grandparental care, we analysed data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) comparing four grandparental relationship statuses (original couple, widowed, divorced, and repartnered) with respect to grandmothers’ and grandfathers’ provision of care to their birth children’s children. When proximity, kinship laterality, and grandparents’ age, health, employment, and financial status were controlled, divorced grandmothers without current partners provided significantly more childcare than grandmothers who were still residing with the grandfather, those who had new partners unrelated to the grandchildren, and widows without current partners. Grandfathers exhibited a very different pattern, providing substantially less grandchild care after divorce. Grandfathers in their original partnerships provided the most grandchild care, followed by widowers, those with new partners and finally those who were divorced. Seemingly contradictory findings in prior research, including studies using SHARE data, can be explained partly by failures to distinguish divorce’s effects on grandmothers versus grandfathers, and partly by insufficient controls for the grandmother’s financial and employment statuses.

publication date

  • 2021