Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 135–174 | Cite as

Regular provision of grandchild care and participation in social activities

  • Bruno Arpino
  • Valeria Bordone


Against the background of rapid population ageing, studying social participation in later life is of particular relevance within the framework of active ageing. Although caring for grandchildren has taken a central role for older persons due to unprecedented overlap between grandparents’ and their grandchildren’s lives, whether the relationship between grandparental childcare and social activities is characterised by cumulation or competition remains under-explored. Grandparental childcare may increase the purpose in life for grandparents, stimulating their social participation, or it may impose time and energy constraints on it. This study aims to assess the effect of providing grandchild care on participation in social activities for people aged 50–85 in Europe. Using an instrumental variable approach on data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, we find no significant negative effects of grandchild care on engagement in at least one social activity. However, regular provision of grandchild care has a significant negative effect on the number of activities in which grandmothers participate. When considering the activities separately by type we also find, for grandmothers only, a negative effect on volunteering, engagement in educational or training courses and participation in political or community-related organisation.


Grandchild care Social activities Grandparents Intergenerational relationships Volunteering SHARE 

JEL Classification

J14 J22 Z13 



Bruno Arpino acknowledges funding from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project: “Grandparenting and successful ageing”; Grant No. CSO2015-62707-ERC).


  1. Ahern, M. M., & Hendryx, M. (2008). Community participation and the emergence of late-life depressive symptoms: Difference between women and men. Journal of Women’s Health, 17(9), 1463–1470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albertini, M., & Kohli, M. (2009). What childless older people give: Is the generational link broken? Ageing and Society, 29(8), 1261–1274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, D. T., Barraket, J., Lewis, J. M., & Considine, M. (2010). Civic engagement and associationalism: The impact of group membership scope versus intensity of participation. European Sociological Review, 28(1), 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2009). Mostly harmless econometrics: An empiricists companion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Arpino, B., & Bordone, V. (2014). Does grandparenting pay off? The effect of childcare on grandparents’ cognitive functioning. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76(2), 337–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Arpino, B., & Bordone, V. (2015). Active ageing typologies and related health outcomes: A latent class analysis of the older Europeans. In Paper presented at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting 2015, 28 April–03 May 2015, San Diego, USA.Google Scholar
  7. Baker, L. A., & Silverstein, M. (2008). Preventive health behaviors among grandmothers raising grandchildren. Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 63(5), S304–S311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baum, C. F., Schaffer, M. E., & Stillman, S. (2007). Enhanced routines for instrumental variables/GMM estimation and testing. Stata Journal, 7(4), 465–506.Google Scholar
  9. Bordone, V. (2009). Contact and proximity of older people to their adult children: A comparison between Italy and Sweden. Population, Space and Place, 15(4), 359–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bordone, V., & Arpino, B. (2016). Do grandchildren influence how old you feel? Journal of Aging and Health. doi: 10.1177/0898264315618920.Google Scholar
  11. Bordone V., Arpino B., & Aassve A. (2016). Patterns of grandparental childcare across Europe: The role of the policy context and working mothers’ need. Ageing and Society (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  12. Börsch-Supan, A., Brugiavini, A., Juerges, H., Mackenbach, J., Siegrist, J., & Weber, G. (2005). Health, ageing and retirement in Europe. First results from the survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe. Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging (MEA): Mannheim.Google Scholar
  13. Börsch-Supan, A., & Jürges, H. (Eds.). (2005). The survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe—methodology. Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging (MEA): Mannheim.Google Scholar
  14. Bowling, A., & Dieppe, P. (2005). What is successful ageing and who should define it? BMJ, 331(7531), 1548–1551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, E., & Zhang, Y. (2013). Is volunteer labor part of household production? Evidence from married couples. Review of Economics of the Household, 11(3), 341–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bukov, A., Maas, I., & Lampert, T. (2002). Social participation in very old age: Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings from BASE. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 57B(6), P510–P517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bulanda, J. R., & Jendrek, M. P. (2016). Grandparenting roles and volunteer activity. The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 71(1), 129–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Caro, F. G., & Bass, S. A. (1995). Increasing volunteering among older people. In S. Bass (Ed.), Older and active: How Americans over 55 are contributing to society (pp. 71–96). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Carstensen, L. L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory. Psychology and Aging, 7(3), 331–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Choi, N. G., Burr, J. A., Mutchler, J. E., & Caro, F. G. (2007). Formal and informal volunteer activity and spousal caregiving among older adults. Research on Aging, 29(2), 99–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cigler, A., & Joslyn, M. R. (2002). The extensiveness of group membership and social capital: the impact on political tolerance attitudes. Political Research Quarterly, 55(1), 7–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coall, D. A., & Hertwig, R. (2011). Grandparental investment: A relic of the past or a resource for the future? Psychological Science, 20(2), 93–98.Google Scholar
  23. Compton, J. (2015). Family proximity and the labor force status of women in Canada. Review of Economics of the Household, 13(2), 323–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Compton, J., & Pollak, R. A. (2014). Family proximity, childcare, and women’s labor force attachment. Journal of Urban Economics, 79, 72–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Cooley, C. H. (1912). Social organization. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  26. Cornwell, B., Laumann, E. O., & Schumm, L. P. (2008). The social connectedness of older adults: A national profile. American Sociological Review, 73(2), 185–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Cumming, E., Dean, L. R., Newell, D. S., & McCallfrey, I. (1960). Disengagement: A tentative theory of aging. Sociometry, 23(1), 23–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Di Gessa, G., Glaser, K., & Tinker, A. (2015). The health impact of intensive and nonintensive grandchild care in Europe: New evidence from SHARE. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv055.Google Scholar
  29. Dykstra, P. A. (2006). Off the beaten track: Childlessness and social integration in late life. Research on Aging, 28(6), 749–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Elder, G. H., Jr, & Conger, R. D. (2000). Children of the land: Adversity and success in rural America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  31. Engelhardt, H., Buber, I., Skirbekk, V., & Prskawetz, A. (2010). Social involvement, behavioural risks and cognitive functioning among older people. Ageing and Society, 30(5), 779–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Erlinghagen, M., & Hank, K. (2006). The participation of older Europeans in volunteer work. Ageing and Society, 26(4), 567–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Furstenberg, F. F. (2005). Banking on families: How families generate and distribute social capital. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(4), 809–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hank, K., & Buber, I. (2009). Grandparents caring for their grandchildren: Findings from the 2004 Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. Journal of Family Issues, 30(1), 53–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hank, K., & Stuck, S. (2008). Volunteer work, informal help and care among the 50+ in Europe: Further evidence for linked productive activities at older ages. Social Science Research, 37(4), 1280–1291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ho, C. (2015). Grandchild care, intergenerational transfers, and grandparents’ labor supply. Review of Economics of the Household, 13(2), 359–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hughes, M. E., Waite, L. J., LaPierre, T. A., & Luo, Y. (2007). All in the family: The impact of caring for grandchildren on grandparents’ health. Journals of Gerontology Series B—Social Sciences, 62(2), 108–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hultsch, D. F., Hertzog, C., Small, B. J., & Dixon, R. A. (1999). Use it or lose it: Engaged lifestyle as a buffer of cognitive decline in aging? Psychology and Aging, 14(2), 245–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jendrek, M. P. (1993). Grandparents who parent their grandchildren: Effects on lifestyle. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55(3), 609–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Katz, L. F., Kling, J. R., & Liebman, J. B. (2001). Moving to opportunity in Boston: Early results of a randomized mobility experiment. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(2), 607–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kohli, M., Hank, K., & Künemund, H. (2009). The social connectedness of older Europeans: Patterns, dynamics and contexts. Journal of European Social Policy, 19(4), 327–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Koslowski, A. S. (2009). Grandparents and the care of their grandchildren. In D. Kneale, E. Coast, & J. Stillwell (Eds.), Fertility, living arrangements, care and mobility: Understanding population trends and processes (Vol. 1, pp. 171–190). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ku, L.-J. E., Stearns, S. C., Van Houtven, C. H., & Holmes, G. M. (2012). The health effects of caregiving by grandparents in Taiwan: An instrumental variable estimation. Review of Economics of the Household, 10(4), 521–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lee, Y., & Tang, F. (2015). More caregiving, less working caregiving roles and gender difference. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 34(4), 465–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lubben, J., & Gironda, M. (2003). Centrality of social ties to the health and well-being of older adults. In B. Berkman & L. Harootyan (Eds.), Social work and health care in an aging society (pp. 319–345). New York: Springer Publications.Google Scholar
  46. Mascherini, M., Vidoni, D., & Manca, A. R. (2010). Exploring the determinants of civil participation in 14 European countries: One-size-fits none. European Sociological Review, 27(6), 790–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McNamara, T. K., & Gonzales, E. (2011). Volunteer transitions among older adults: The role of human, social, and cultural capital in later life. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66(4), 490–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Menec, V. H. (2003). The relation between everyday activities and successful aging: A6-year longitudinal study. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58(2), 75–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Minkler, M. (1999). Intergenerational households headed by grandparents: Contexts, realities, and implications for policy. Journal of Aging Studies, 13(2), 199–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Minkler, M., & Fuller-Thomson, E. (2005). African American grandparents raising grandchildren: A national study using the Census 2000 American Community Survey. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 60B(2), S82–S92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morrow-Howell, N., & Gehlert, S. (2012). Social engagement and a healthy aging society. In T. Prohaska, L. Anderson, & R. Binstock (Eds.), Public health for an aging society (pp. 205–227). Baltimore, MA: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Nummela, O., Sulander, T., Rahkonen, O., Karisto, A., & Uutela, A. (2008). Social participation, trust and self-rated health: A study among ageing people in urban, semi-urban and rural Settings. Health and Place, 14(2), 243–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Paxton, P. (2002). Social capital and democracy: An interdependent relationship. American Sociological Review, 67(2), 254–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work. Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rotolo, T. (2000). A time to join, a time to quit: The influence of life-cycle transitions on voluntary association membership. Social Forces, 78(3), 1133–1161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1997). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 433–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1998). Successful aging. New York, NY: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  59. Scarmeas, N., & Stern, Y. (2003). Cognitive reserve and lifestyle. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 25(5), 625–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Seeman, T. E., Charpentier, P. A., Berkman, L. F., Tinetti, M. E., Guralnik, J. M., Albert, M., et al. (1994). Predicting changes in physical performance in a high-functioning elderly cohort: MacArthur studies of successful aging. Journal of Gerontology, 49(3), M97–M108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Silverstein, M., Cong, Z., & Li, S. (2006). Intergenerational transfers and living arrangements of older people in rural China: Consequences for psychological well-being. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 61, 256–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Silverstein, M., & Giarrusso, R. (2013). Kinship and cohort in an aging society: From generation to generation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Staiger, D., & Stock, J. H. (1997). Instrumental variables regression with weak instruments. Econometrica, 65(3), 557–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. van den Bogaard, L., Henkens, K., & Kalmijn, M. (2014). So now what? Effects of retirement on civic engagement. Ageing and Society, 34(7), 1170–1192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Waldrop, D. P., & Weber, J. A. (2001). From grandparent to caregiver: The stress and satisfaction of raising grandchildren. Families in Society, 82(5), 461–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Winefield, H., & Air, T. (2010). Grandparenting: Diversity in grandparent experiences and needs for healthcare and support. International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 8(4), 277–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wollebæk, D., & Strømsnes, K. (2008). Voluntary associations, trust, and civic engagement: A multilevel approach. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 37(2), 249–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. World Health Organization (WHO). (2002). Active ageing: A policy framework. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  69. Zaidi, A., Gasior, K., Hofmarcher, M. M., Lelkes, O., Marin, B., Rodrigues, R., et al. (2013). Active ageing index 2012 concept, methodology and final results. Vienna: European Centre.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political and Social Sciences and Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology (RECSM)Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Centre for Research on AgeingUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

Personalised recommendations