Social Science & Medicine
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Funding information available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.03.031
Previous studies suggest grandparental childcare is associated with improved health and well-being of grandparents but limited information on the causal nature of this association exists. Here, we use the longitudinal Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) of people aged 50 and above across 11 countries including follow-up waves between 2004 and 2015 (n = 41,713 person-observations from 24,787 unique persons of whom 11,102 had two or more measurement times). Between-person and within-person (or fixed-effect) regressions were applied, where between-person models show associations across participants and within-person models focus on each participant's variation over time. Health and well-being were measured according to self-rated health, difficulties with activities of daily living (ADLs), depressive symptoms, life satisfaction and meaning of life scores. Across all analyses, childcare assistance provided by older adults to their adult children, was associated with increased health and well-being of grandparents. However, these associations were almost completely due to between-person differences and did not hold in within-person analyses that compared the same participants over time. Fewer ADL limitations for grandparents who provided childcare assistance was the only association that remained in the within-individual analyses. These findings suggest that there might be only limited causal association between grandchild care and grandparental well-being and that it may be specific to physical rather than cognitive factors. The results are discussed with regard to evolutionary psychology assumptions of altruistic behavior and positive health outcomes for the helper.
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