Public Library of Science
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Medical Sciences
Across human cultures, grandparents make a valued contribution to the health of their families and communities. Moreover, evidence is gathering that grandparents have a positive impact on the development of grandchildren in contemporary industrialized societies. A broad range of factors that influence the likelihood grandparents will invest in their grandchildren has been explored by disciplines as diverse as sociology, economics, psychology and evolutionary biology. To progress toward an encompassing framework, this study will include biological relatedness between grandparents and grandchildren, a factor central to some discipline's theoretical frameworks (e.g., evolutionary biology), next to a wide range of other factors in an analysis of grandparental investment in contemporary Europe. This study draws on data collected in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe from 11 European countries that included 22,967 grandparent-child dyads. Grandparents reported biological relatedness, and grandparental investment was measured as the frequency of informal childcare. Biological and non-biological grandparents differed significantly in a variety of individual, familial and area-level characteristics. Furthermore, many other economic, sociological, and psychological factors also influenced grandparental investment. When they were controlled, biological grandparents, relative to non-biological grandparents, were more likely to invest heavily, looking after their grandchildren almost daily or weekly. Paradoxically, however, they were also more likely to invest nothing at all. We discuss the methodological and theoretical implications of these findings across disciplines.
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