Grandparenting, education and subjective well-being of older Europeans

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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”.

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Responsible Editors: Karsten Hank, Karen Glaser (guest editors) and Marja J. Aartsen.

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Arpino, B., Bordone, V. & Balbo, N. Grandparenting, education and subjective well-being of older Europeans. Eur J Ageing 15, 251–263 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-018-0467-2

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Keywords

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