European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 251–263 | Cite as

Grandparenting, education and subjective well-being of older Europeans

  • Bruno ArpinoEmail author
  • Valeria Bordone
  • Nicoletta Balbo
Original Investigation


We study whether grandparenthood is associated with older people’s subjective well-being (SWB), considering the association with life satisfaction of having grandchildren per se, their number, and of the provision of grandchild care. Older people’s education may not only be an important confounder to control for, but also a moderator in the relation between grandparenthood-related variables and SWB. We investigate these issues by adopting a cross-country comparative perspective and using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe covering 20 countries. Our results show that grandparenthood has a stronger positive association with SWB in countries where intensive grandparental childcare is not common and less socially expected. Yet, this result is driven by a negative association between grandparenthood without grandparental childcare and SWB that we only found in countries where intensive grandparental childcare is widespread. Therefore, in accordance with the structural ambivalence theory, we argue that in countries where it is socially expected for grandparents to have a role as providers of childcare, not taking on such a role may negatively influence SWB. However, our results show that grandparental childcare (either intensive or not) is generally associated with higher SWB. Overall, we do not find support for a moderating effect of education. We also do not find striking differences by gender in the association between grandparenthood and SWB. The only noteworthy discrepancy refers to grandmothers being often more satisfied when they provide grandchild care.


Grandparenthood Grandchild care Subjective well-being Education Cross-country comparison SHARE 



This study belongs to the multi-country project “Care, Retirement & Wellbeing of Older People Across Different Welfare Regimes” (CREW). Bruno Arpino acknowledges funding from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (PCIN-2016-005; PI: Bruno Arpino) within the second Joint Programming Initiative “More Years Better Lives”.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 44 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political and Social Sciences and Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology (RECSM)Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Munich (LMU)MunichGermany
  3. 3.Department of Policy Analysis and Public ManagementBocconi UniversityMilanItaly

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