According to a new study, the grandparents’ support such as the amount of child care or monetary support they provide can get decreased by the adverse experiences faced by the grandchildren and their families. The study was published in the journal, ‘the proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.’
It also showed that support given by paternal grandparents decreased more than that given by maternal grandparents. Only maternal grandmothers’ support stays on the same level as the adverse experiences increase. These adverse early life experiences may include e.g. economic struggles of the child’s family, parents’ divorce or substance abuse problems, or violence, injury, or sickness faced by the grandchild. The research focused on the combined effects of adverse experiences instead of individual experiences. This study did not examine cases where the child’s primary caretaker was one of the grandparents.
Previous social science research has often assumed that grandparents will invest more in a grandchild’s life in response to adverse life events in the child’s family. However, our results do not support this assumption, said Senior Researcher Samuli Helle from the University of Turku. According to the study, a grandchild’s future prospects for successful reproduction may impact the grandparents’ willingness to offer them support: adverse experiences in childhood may reduce the child’s future prospects for doing well in life and producing successful offspring. Currently, it is unclear how strongly present such effects are in humans, and there is a need for further research on the subject.
Previous research has shown that maternal grandparents, particularly maternal grandmothers, support a grandchild’s family more than paternal grandparents. The significance of maternal grandmothers appears to persist even when grandchildren’s living circumstances worsen, said Helle. The new study is based on data from a survey that was responded to by English and Welsh adolescents aged 11-16 years.
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