How Americans enact the grandparent role across the family life course

Merril Silverstein, Anne Marenco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


This study examines life course and sociodemographic variations in the ways grandparents are involved with grandchildren in terms of structural, functional, shared activities, and affective-cognitive aspects of these relationships. Family life stage, as well as grandparents' gender, marital status, race, and education, influenced how the grandparent role was enacted. Younger grandparents tended to live closer to and have greater contact with grandchildren and baby-sit and share recreational activities. Older grandparents tended to provide financial assistance and more strongly identified with the role. When their grandchildren were younger, grandparents tended to interact more with them, share more activities, provide baby-sitting, and receive more symbolic rewards from the grandparent role. Many effects related to grandchildren's age were explained by the greater opportunity of grandparents to interact with younger grandchildren. The article concludes that it is important to consider the life course position of grandparents and grandchildren when ascertaining the content and meaning of the grandparent role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-522
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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