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Contemporary grandparenting

Contemporary grandparenting: Changing family relationships in global contexts

Sara Arber
Virpi Timonen
Copyright Date: 2012
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  • Book Info
    Contemporary grandparenting
    Book Description:

    Grandparenting in the 21st century is at the heart of profound family and societal changes. It is of increasing social and economic significance yet many dimensions of grandparenting are still poorly understood. Contemporary Grandparenting is the first book to take a sociological approach to grandparenting across diverse country contexts and combines new theorising with up-to-date empirical findings to document the changing nature of grandparenting across global contexts. In this highly original book, leading contributors analyse how grandparenting differs according to the nature of the welfare state and the cultural context, how family breakdown influences grandparenting, and explore men's changing roles as grandfathers. Grandparents today face conflicting norms and expectations about their roles, but act with agency to forge new identities within the context of societal and cultural constraints. Contemporary Grandparenting illuminates key issues relevant to students and researchers from sociology and social policy, including in the fields of family, childhood, ageing and gender studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-969-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Notes on contributors
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. ONE A new look at grandparenting
    (pp. 1-24)
    Virpi Timonen and Sara Arber

    An ageing world contains growing numbers of grandparents, who share longer lifespans with, on average, smaller numbers of grandchildren. The scope for grandparenting is therefore widening, and grandparenting is taking on new forms as the social and economic contexts of family relationships evolve. Diversity in grandparenting also arises from grandparents’ own choices regarding engagement with grandchildren. Time is ripe for a new look at grandparenting.

    This chapter provides an overview of the main themes, arguments and frameworks that research on grandparents has yielded, highlighting how this book addresses lacunae in the literature and engages with new or poorly understood aspects...

  6. Part One: Grandparents responding to economic and family transformations

    • TWO Transformations in the role of grandparents across welfare states
      (pp. 27-50)
      Katharina Herlofson and Gunhild O. Hagestad

      In many European countries, grandparenthood is now receiving a great deal of media attention. Reporters want to know if we as social scientists observe new patterns in grandparenting, and they ask what we know about grandparent roles. It is not easy to provide simple answers, but we often respond that grandparents must be seen in several types of societal contexts: cultural, demographic and structural. In considering structural conditions, it is essential that we examine laws and social policies. As sociologists, we are convinced that considerations of contemporary grandparenthood, to a much greater extent than has been the case so far,...

    • THREE The wellbeing of grandparents caring for grandchildren in rural China and the United States
      (pp. 51-70)
      Lindsey Baker and Merril Silverstein

      The intensity and style of care for grandchildren, as well as the precipitating conditions of grandparental involvement vary substantially across countries and regions of the world. The basic functional typology used to describe grandparents who devote substantial time to the care of their grandchildren generally classifies them into two types: ‘child savers’, who provide extensive childcare when parents are incapacitated or unavailable to raise their children (Minkler and Roe, 1993), and ‘mother savers’, who provide childcare so that parents (usually mothers) are able to work for pay outside the home or pursue educational opportunities (Gordon et al, 2004) (see Chapters...

    • FOUR Grandmothers juggling work and grandchildren in the United States
      (pp. 71-90)
      Madonna Harrington Meyer

      We tend to think of balancing work and family as something that only relatively young families contend with, yet many middle-aged grandmothers are employed and providing routine childcare for their grandchildren. Grandmothers are highly prized daycare providers because the quality is often high, the cost is often very low, and the flexibility is often maximal (Wheelock and Jones, 2002). Indeed, many young working families report that they feel that the best possible care providers for their children would be the grandmothers. Grandmothers may agree, but as the age at retirement increases with economic necessity, many grandmothers are feeling more of...

    • FIVE Solidarity, ambivalence and multigenerational co-residence in Hong Kong
      (pp. 91-112)
      Lisanne S.F. Ko

      In most western societies, three-generational co-residence is not the norm. However, the US Census, for instance, has noted a sharp increase of co-residence with grandparent(s) since the economic downturn in 2007. At present, one child in 10 lives with a grandparent in the US (Livingston and Parker, 2010). Living with grandparents is more prevalent in a number of Asian societies. For instance, in Thailand, 59% of older adults aged 60 and above lived with at least one child and/or grandchild in 2007 (United Nations, 2010a). The corresponding proportion is 43% in Japan (United Nations, 2010a) and 53% in Hong Kong...

    • SIX Grandparenting in the context of care for grandchildren by foreign domestic workers
      (pp. 113-136)
      Shirley Hsiao-Li Sun

      Historically, childcare needs in Asia have been met within the family. Moreover, participation of grandparents in providing care for their grandchildren has been the norm. In the context of declining fertility and an ageing population, as in some contemporary South East Asian societies, it is pertinent to consider how the nature and character of intergenerational relations is changing with respect to childcare. For example, to what extent does the norm of obligation for grandparents to provide childcare assistance still hold? What happens to intergenerational interactions when co-residence of three generations of family members declines? In the midst of global migration,...

  7. Part Two: Grandparent identities and agency

    • SEVEN Being there yet not interfering: the paradoxes of grandparenting
      (pp. 139-158)
      Vanessa May, Jennifer Mason and Lynda Clarke

      Grandparenting is an increasingly common experience (Mann, 2007), and it is also an ambivalent one for many grandparents, as Mrs Wilkinson (pseudonym) indicates. She hints at the pleasures of grandparenting, including a relative freedom from the kinds of responsibilities that parents have for children, but she betrays a sense of regret that she lacks control over the relationship – sometimes ‘you don’t want to’ send them home, but, she implies,you must. She also speaks of grandparenting using a form of ‘normative talk’ that she expects will be familiar to the listener.

      This chapter¹ focuses on ‘normative talk’ about grandparenting. It...

    • EIGHT Grandparental agency after adult children’s divorce
      (pp. 159-180)
      Virpi Timonen and Martha Doyle

      One of the major social changes that have shaped grandparenting in the modern world is the increased incidence of divorce and separation, both among grandparents themselves and among their adult children. In this chapter, we focus on grandparenting in families where members of the middle (or ‘intermediate’) generation have divorced or separated. Having divorced children is a common experience for older adults in many countries. In the United States, for instance, over half of all parents aged 60 or older with at least one ever-married adult child are estimated to have experienced a child’s divorce (Spitze et al, 1994). Grandparents’...

    • NINE Grandfathering: the construction of new identities and masculinities
      (pp. 181-202)
      Anna Tarrant

      Men’s roles and identities as grandfathers are insufficiently explored in social science literatures (Bates, 2009; Tarrant, 2010). There has been a proliferation of research on fathering and grandparenting in Britain (Clarke and Roberts, 2002; Dench and Ogg, 2002), but this has not resulted in further interest in grandfathers, whose roles, relationships, identities and practices remain inadequately theorised (Mann, 2007). However, some researchers have argued that grandfathers’ involvement in the lives of their grandchildren is equal to that of grandmothers (Leeson and Harper, 2009). The gendered nature of earlier research on grandparenting has resulted in men being excluded from most analyses,...

    • TEN Understanding adolescent grandchildren’s influence on their grandparents
      (pp. 203-224)
      Alice Delerue Matos and Rita Borges Neves

      Grandparent–grandchild relationships have been studied in the social sciences for over 50 years, with traditional perspectives emphasising the importance of grandparents as agents of socialisation for grandchildren (Neugarten and Weinstein, 1964; Denham and Smith, 1989). Most studies have adopted the grandparents’ perspective while neglecting the grandchild’s viewpoint (Dellmann-Jenkins et al, 1987; Attar-Schwartz et al, 2009). Research has demonstrated that grandparents are a key element in grandchildren’s socialisation by transmitting to them core values, by representing a role model and through companionship (Robertson, 1976; Denham and Smith, 1989). Nonetheless socialisation is not limited to childhood but occurs throughout the life...

    • ELEVEN Social contact between grandparents and older grandchildren: a three-generation perspective
      (pp. 225-246)
      Katharina Mahne and Oliver Huxhold

      The study of the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren is important for various reasons. Being a grandparent is generally a central role in later life (Hodgson, 1992; Mahne and Motel-Klingebiel, 2012). Relationships with grandchildren are reported by the majority of grandparents as among the most important relationships they have (Reitzes and Mutran, 2002; Clarke and Roberts, 2004) and grandparent identity is positively related to wellbeing (Reitzes and Mutran, 2004a). Despite its obvious centrality, the opportunities for the enactment of the grandparental role are subject to change over time.

      The transition to grandparenthood is no longer a self-evident life event since...

    • TWELVE Grandparenting in the 21st century: new directions
      (pp. 247-264)
      Sara Arber and Virpi Timonen

      Contemporary grandparenting is at the fulcrum of family relationships, but the nature and practices of grandparenting are very different in the 21st century than 50 years ago, and are very different today in the UK than in China or Africa. To fully understand grandparenting, it is critical to adopt a cross-national and temporal perspective, and be attuned to the impact of globalisation. The global focus of this book emphasises that cultural norms in different societies and broader societal changes have a profound impact on grandparenting. Thus, the practices of grandparenting and subjective meaning of being a grandparent vary markedly between...

  8. Index
    (pp. 265-270)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)