Changes in intergenerational relationships in the family and young adults’ relationships with grandparents

Maria A. Monserud, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

On the basis of the intergenerational solidarity theory, the parent-as-mediator perspective, and the kin-keeping framework, this study examines whether changes in intergenerational relationships in the family are associated with changes in contact and closeness between young adults and their grandparents. Specifically, this study investigates whether changes in both parents’ ties to their offspring, parents, and parents-in-law matter for the grandparent-grandchild relationships. Drawing on data from Waves 2 and 3 of the National Survey of Families and Households, this study examines reports of 796 young adults (ages 18-34) on their relationships with grandparents. The parent-as-mediator theory states that parents affect the nature of the grandparent-grandchild relationship. The kin-keeping perspectives, however, suggests that mothers are more influential for the grandparent-grandchild bond because women are major kin-keepers in the family. The present paper argues that not only mothers but also fathers can be important for the intergenerational solidarity between grandchildren and grandparents. The findings of the present study suggest that it is important to examine grandparent-grandchild ties within a complete kinship network. In support of the parent-as-mediator theory, the findings indicate that both parents’ intergenerational relationships are related to the grandparent-grandchild bond. In general, improvements in parents’ relationships with the grandchild and grandparent generations were associated with increases in closeness between young adults and their grandparents. The only exception is improvements in the mother-child relationship that were associated with decreases in contact between young adults and their maternal grandparents. In support of the kin-keeping perspective, the findings indicate that mothers’ intergenerational relationships are influential for the grandparent-grandchild bond. However, contrary to the kin-keeping perspective, the results support the idea that not only mothers but also fathers through their relationships with the grandparent and grandchild generations can significantly contribute to intergenerational solidarity between young adults and their grandparents within and across lineage lines.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 63: Intergenerational Relationships