Inter-generational role investments of great-grandparents: Consequences for psychological well-being

Linda M. Drew, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Identity theory suggests that individuals who perceive their family roles as salient and feel competent in their performance have greater psychological well-being than others. This paper assesses the ways in which aspects of parent, grandparent and great-grandparent role investments affect self-esteem, levels of depression and affect-balance. The 188 respondents with an average age of 73 years were participants in the University of Southern California Longitudinal Study of Generations and occupied all three roles at the time of measurement. They self-assessed quality of performance, importance to one's identity and satisfaction in their family roles. Overall, levels of role investment declined consistently with greater lineage distance from parent to great-grandparent. Latent correlations showed that parent role investment was most highly associated with well-being, followed by investment in grandparent and great-grandparent roles. Structural equation modelling, however, revealed no unique effects on well-being for any of the three roles (as a result of high inter-correlations). All three role structures formed a single meta-construct that was positively related to psychological well-being. It is concluded that the strength and consequences of inter-generational role investments were hierarchically structured by relational proximity, but also manifested in a single integrated family identity, which suggests that there are two competing and complementary views of family role structures in later life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-111
Number of pages17
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Great-grandparents
  • Inter-generational relationships
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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