Step-Grandparent–Step-Grandchild Relationships: Is There a “Grand Step-Gap” in Emotional Closeness and Contact?

Anja Steinbach, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


High divorce and remarriage rates have expanded nontraditional family forms, as some family members leave and others join during the process of repartnering. A less explored consequence of the growth in step-families is the proliferation of step-grandparenthood. This paper focuses on emotional closeness and frequency of contact between step-grandparents and their step-grandchildren in childhood and adulthood. Based on 4,992 biological grandparents and step-grandparents participating in the 2014 wave of the German Ageing Survey, we compared 7,710 biological grandparent–grandchild relations to 465 step-grandparent–step-grandchild relations. Step-relations were differentiated by whether repartnering occurred in the grandparent or parent generation. Hierarchical linear regression results provided support for the hypothesis that step-grandparents feel less emotionally close to their step-grandchildren than biological grandparents feel to their biological grandchildren. In contrast, the observed lower frequency of contact in step-grandparent–step-grandchild relations was mostly explained by their weaker emotional ties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1137-1160
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • German Ageing Survey
  • emotional closeness
  • frequency of contact
  • intergenerational relations
  • step-families
  • step-grandchildren
  • step-grandparents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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