Grandparents and children - two-way benefits?
We intuitively know that grandparents contribute to children's wellbeing but what are those benefits and are there reciprocal ones to grandparents?
With changing family patterns, increased life expectancy, growing numbers of dual-worker households and higher rates of family breakdown, grandparents are now playing an increasing role in their grandchildren's lives. How does that affect outcomes?
Fewer emotional and behavioural problems in children with high grandparental involvement
Research by Professor Ann Buchanan from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford showed that a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children. A study of more than 1,500 children showed that those with a high level of grandparental involvement had fewer emotional and behavioural problems. It demonstrated that their involvement is strongly associated with reduced adjustment difficulties in all family types, but particularly so amongst adolescences from divorced or separated families.
Grandfathers' and grandmothers' roles are different
The research also showed that the grandfathers' involvement, independent of grandmothers, is associated with child well-being but their involvement is different; whereas grandmothers are more involved in nurturing, grandfathers get involved in activities and mentoring.
Emotional closeness reduces depression in children and grandparents but..
A study of 374 grandparents and 356 adult grandchildren over a 19-year period by Boston College researchers, published in the Gerontologist, found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups. However, for both grandparents and adult grandchildren, frequent contact increased depressive symptoms. Just as adult children’s problems harm the well-being of parents, adult grandchildren’s problems may trouble grandparents. So what really matters is the quality of relationship (emotional closeness and consensus of opinions).
[Depressive symptoms, such as sad emotions and negative thoughts, are common threats to psychological well-being throughout life. Research suggests that for the average person, depressive symptoms follow a U-shaped trajectory, with the most symptoms in youth and old age, and the fewest symptoms around age 45.]
They keep you young mentally but..
An Australian study with 224 women, mean age 70, showed that grandmothers minding grandchildren had higher cognitive function (memory, reasoning, etc) than those who were not minding children or who did not have grandchildren. Minding grandchildren for just one day per week predicted better cognitive performance than more frequent grandparenting. While grandparenting is associated with better cognitive function overall, highly frequent grandparenting is associated with lower cognitive function, which may be due to demands/stress.
It is suggested that the benefits to cognitive health could be maintained for at least a decade.
So there are benefits for both grandparents and grandchildren, especially mentally.
I was wondering about how a church might encourage the different generations to come together, especially if families have no grandparents. A possible model is North and South London Cares who help the elderly to mix with young professionals.
Watch a video about their work here:
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Geoff Knott, 28/02/2017