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Adolescent grandchildren’s perceptions of grandparents’ involvement in UK: an interpretation from life course and evolutionary theory perspective

Abstract

In this article, we study grandparental involvement from the viewpoint of evolutionary theory and sociological life course perception. We have used ‘the Involved Grandparenting and Child Well-Being 2007’ survey, which is the first nationally representative sample of British and Welsh adolescents aged 11–16 (n = 1,488). First, we explore with the descriptive statistics the amount of grandparental involvement reported by adolescents. The result follows the predicted pattern: maternal grandparent is reported to involve in a grandchild’s life the most, second maternal grandfather, third paternal grandmother and the last paternal grandfather. Second, we focus more closely on separate grandparents and show with four linear regression models which factors are connected to each grandparent’s involvement. Grandchild’s age, grandparent’s health, grandparent’s labour force participation and distance between a grandparent and a grandchild were factors that have similar effects in relation to all grandparents. Marital status mattered only for grandfathers, whereas family structure of a grandchild has opposite effects in relation to maternal and paternal grandparents. Grandchild’s sex, grandparent’s age, the number of grandchildren and the number of living grandparents all mattered, but only with respect to some grandparents. The study shows that it is advantageous to merge sociological and evolutionary viewpoints when studying a grandparental involvement in a modern society.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Ann Buchanan and the research team for making the Involved Grandparenting and Child Well-Being 2007 data available. We also thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful comments. The research is part of the research project Generational Transmissions in Finland (Gentrans) at the University of Helsinki funded by the Academy of Finland.

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Correspondence to Mirkka Danielsbacka.

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Responsible Editor: H.-W. Wahl.

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Danielsbacka, M., Tanskanen, A.O. Adolescent grandchildren’s perceptions of grandparents’ involvement in UK: an interpretation from life course and evolutionary theory perspective. Eur J Ageing 9, 329–341 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-012-0240-x

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Keywords

  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Grandparental involvement
  • Intergenerational relationships
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Life course perception