Grandparental investments and family dynamics in contemporary Europe

by Mirkka Danielsbacka

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2016
Keywords: yhteiskuntapolitiikka
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2064612
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/163085


Intergenerational relations have in recent decades become an integral part of both sociology and evolutionary research. These disciplines are, however, rarely in dialogue with each other. The present study is a social and public policy thesis, the main purpose of which is to combine theories from family sociology and evolutionary theory. Empirically, the study asks the following question: What factors are associated with the strengths and weaknesses of intergenerational relations, grandparental care and differences between types of grandparents? The thesis consists of five empirical articles and a summary chapter. The sub-studies were conducted with three large and representative surveys, which include respondents from 16 European countries. These datasets are the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, the Involved Grandparenting and Child Well-Being Survey, and the Generational Transmissions in Finland data. The Methods used in the empirical articles are quantitative. Article I tested and gained support for the existence of a biased grandparental investment pattern where the maternal grandmother invests the most, followed by the maternal grandfather, the paternal grandmother and finally by the paternal grandfather, who invests the least. In addition, the study showed that grandmothers as well as grandfathers invest preferentially in their daughters children compared to their sons if both options are available. Thus gender and lineage of a grandparent are important factors determining grandparental investment. Articles II and III examined family dynamics, especially between young couples and their parents-in-law, and detected a significant difference in emotional closeness as well as conflict proneness according to whether or not the couple had children. In general, women and men perceived their relationship with their own parents to be emotionally closer but also more conflict-prone than their relationship with their parents-in-law. Particularly for men, having children seemed to render the relationship with parents-in-law more similar to their relationship with their own parents. Article IV studied more closely the socio-ecological factors associated with grandparental investments, and showed that the effect of these factors tend to differ according to grandparents sex and lineage. Finally, in article V the marital status of grandparents was found to be strongly associated with their investments in their grandchildren. Living without a spouse appeared to be more detrimental to grandfathers than grandmothers relationships with their grandchildren. To conclude, intergenerational relations and grandparental investments are biased according to both gender and kin lineage and tend to favour maternal kin. This can ultimately be accounted for by evolutionary explanations, especially sex-specific reproductive strategies and paternity uncertainty. In certain situations, and especially when taking into account in-law relations between parental and grandparental generations, contextual factors may…