Grandparenting and Childbearing in the Extended Family

Le rôle des grands-parents et la constitution de la descendance dans les familles élargies

Abstract

The study analyzes the role of grandparents’ childcare provision on their adult children’s fertility behavior using data from the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) for eleven European countries. An important innovation is that we take into account siblings’ fertility behavior and share of grandparents’ time in terms of childcare. We show that availability of grandparents plays an important role in individuals’ decision of having children. Being helped by grandparents increases the chance of childbearing when existing grandchildren are not too young. On the other hand, the probability of having a child is lower when grandparents are already looking after a sibling’s young child. The role of grandparenting appears stronger in the South of Europe, where public childcare for young children is less prevalent.

Résumé

Cet article étudie l’effet de la prise en charge des enfants par les grands-parents sur le comportement de fécondité de leurs enfants adultes à partir des données des Enquêtes sur la Santé, le Vieillissement et la Retraite en Europe [Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)] de onze pays européens. Un apport important de notre travail est qu’il tient compte des comportements de fécondité de la fratrie et le partage du temps que les grands-parents accordent à la prise en charge des enfants. Nous montrons que la disponibilité des grands-parents joue un rôle important sur les décisions des individus d’avoir un enfant. Etre aidé par les grands-parents augmente la probabilité de procréer quand les autres petits-enfants existant ne sont pas trop jeunes. En revanche, la probabilité d’avoir un enfant est plus faible quand les grands-parents s’occupent déjà d’un jeune enfant d’un frère ou d’une sœur. Le rôle des grands-parents apparaît plus important en Europe du sud, région où les services de garde pour les jeunes enfants sont moins présents.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There is also a literature that concerns the impact of the extended family on younger generations’ schooling decisions and schooling outcomes. Loury (2006) finds that the more the parents are educated the better the performance of the children. Also the fact that aunts, uncles, and grandparents attended more years of schooling affects the child's school attendance.

  2. 2.

    The original distance variable was composed of eight categories, ranging from “leaving in the same house” to “living in another country”. We decided to dichotomize it since we wanted to control for feasibility of contacts between the two households (parents and grandparents). We assume that living up to 25 km apart is a reasonable threshold to allow for a frequent exchange of care.

  3. 3.

    “In couple” has been replaced with 0, “years of schooling” with 13, “work” with 0, “living close to the grandparents” with 0.

  4. 4.

    “Bad health” is a dummy equal to 1 if the grandparent’s answer to the question “How is your general health?” is worst than the category “good”; 0 otherwise.

  5. 5.

    Percentages are reported in Table 3.

  6. 6.

    Data are not available for Switzerland, which has been excluded from this analysis.

  7. 7.

    The table which reports the estimated effects has not been included but may be obtained from the authors on request.

  8. 8.

    We test whether each new coefficient (columns a–f) is significantly different from the original one (first column) and always accept the null hypothesis that they are not different.

  9. 9.

    To our best knowledge, the only survey which contains information on children and childcare provided by distinguished maternal and paternal grandparents is the British Household Panel, in the years 2001 and 2006. From our own elaboration of waves 11 and 16, we find the correlation between paternal and maternal help to be positive and significant (0.202***, N = 1,598).

  10. 10.

    We face some limitations in the data in terms of information and its variability: out of 100 grandparent-families who help, 40 help in couple, 45 it is only the grandmother, 15 it is only the grandfather (which did not allow us to study the differences between grandmothers and grandfathers); moreover, we do not observe the gender of the grandchild.

  11. 11.

    Authors’ elaboration from GGSPS, wave 1.

  12. 12.

    Italia 2020: Programma di azioni per l’inclusione delle donne nel mercato del lavoro (Ministro Carfagna, 2010); La riforma delle pensioni (Ministro Fornero, 2011); La rivoluzione dei congedi (Ministro Riccardi, 2012).

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Acknowledgments

We thank participants to the Population Association of America 2010 Annual Meeting (Dallas, 2010), Dondena—Bank of Italy Workshop (Milan, 2010), the Alp Pop Conference (La Thuile, 2011), and the Understanding Society Conference (Colchester, 2011) for comments on an earlier version of the study. We are very grateful to two anonymous referees and to the editor Hill Kulu whose precious suggestions improved our study. We gratefully acknowledge financial support through Starting Grant no StG-201194 “Consequences of Demographic Change” (CODEC) from the European Research Council (ERC).

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Correspondence to Chiara Pronzato.

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Aassve, A., Meroni, E. & Pronzato, C. Grandparenting and Childbearing in the Extended Family. Eur J Population 28, 499–518 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-012-9273-2

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Keywords

  • Fertility
  • Childcare
  • Grandparents
  • Europe
  • SHARE

Mots-clés

  • Fécondité
  • Garde d’enfants
  • Grands-parents
  • Europe
  • SHARE