European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 171–181 | Cite as

Structured ambivalence in grandchild care and the quality of life among European grandparents

  • Franz S. NeubergerEmail author
  • Klaus Haberkern
Original Investigation


This study employs the concept of structured ambivalence to analyse the effect of grandchild care on quality of life (QoL) in different cultural contexts. We define structured ambivalence as the contradiction between behaviour and cultural norms. The analysis is based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe with 14 countries in the sample. We focus on grandparents aged 50 and over with at least one grandchild 12 years old or younger (n = 12,740). In countries with high grandparent obligations, grandparents who did not look after their grandchildren reported a lower quality of life. Compliance with such grandparental obligations (e.g. providing grandchild care in a country with high grandparent obligations) was found to increase the QoL of grandparents. Family policy should consider family practices that better match the realities of current grandparents’ lives in order to reduce structured ambivalence and increase the QoL of grandparents.


Grandchild care Quality of life Structured ambivalence Europe 



This paper uses data from SHARELIFE release 2.5.0 as of July 29, 2010. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the Fifth Framework Programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the Sixth Framework Programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the Seventh Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, 211909 and SHARE-LEAP, 227822). Additional funding from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064, IAG BSR06-11, R21 AG025169) as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 254 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of SociologyZurichSwitzerland

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