The Ties that Bind: Grandparents and their Grandchildren

Close your eyes for a moment, open your treasure trove of memories and take a step back in time to your childhood. Do you remember your grandfather gently scooping you up into his warm and comforting embrace? Or sitting by your grandmother’s side as she lovingly baked pies chock full of delicious, juicy warm apples sprinkled with crumbly cinnamon bits?

The bond between grandparents and their grandchildren seems to be a magical one, and now, a new article published in the April issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, sets out to discover why grandparents and their grandchildren share such strong connections across generations.

“Evolutionary perspectives on the post-reproductive years have highlighted grandparenthood as an unusual feature of the human lifespan that is only shared with one or two other species, such as some whale species,” says David A. Coall of Edith Cowan University, who co wrote the article along with Ralph Hertwig of the University of Basel. According to the article, grandparents in industrialized societies invest a significant amount of time and money in their grandchildren. Taking care of the grandchildren when the parents are at work, providing financial resources and providing emotional support are just some of the many ways in which grandparents invest in their grandchildren.

Coall was interested in exploring the reason grandparents were motivated to invest in their grandchildren after examining a large body of evidence from traditional human societies. The evidence suggested that the presence of some grandparents can substantially increase the chances of a child surviving during the high risk period of infancy and childhood. “We felt if such as association existed in Western societies, where the fertility and childhood mortality rates are much lower, grandparents could make a substantial public health contribution to our society,” says Coall, who believes that an integration of evolutionary, sociological, and economic accounts will be necessary to fully explain the impact grandparents have in their grandchildren’s development.

Coall and Hertwig conducted structured literature searches to see if the grandparental investment effect that influenced the human life history could still be detected in modern, Western society. Surprisingly Coall and Hertwig soon discovered that few articles actually dealt with the effect of grandparental investment in Western society.

“Although important effects have been found in traditional societies, there was a paucity of research in Western Nations”, says Coall who also states that while researchers from the fields of evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, economics and sociology were all examining the influence of grandparents on their grandchildren, they were working in isolation – demonstrating an almost complete separation of evolutionary and sociological literature.

What does this suggest when it comes to the role of a grandparent in their grandchild’s life in the future? Well, according to Coall, “Grandparents have helped and supported their families in the past, they do now and no doubt, they will in the future. Now we need disciplines to work together and establish what it is that grandparents do which benefits the development of their grandchildren. It could be as simple as knowing that there is always someone there if you need them.”

Comments

This is important information with regard to the incredible role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s life.They provide
support, stability, advice, nurturing etc.
I’m looking for more information that addresses this relationship and how it can be detrimental if the grandparents’ relationship is abruptly cut off due to
conflicts with the parent for some reason.

I am a grandparent that has been and continues to have my grandchildren used as weapons to hurt me by my only daughter. This caused me to have a nervous breakdown in 2011 and I’m going thru another life altering situation with her doing the same thing to me and my grands. My grandchildren and I are very close and bonded very early, especially my granddaughters, they are 11 & 9 years old now. I also have a grandson that’s 5 and he’s with a different father. My daughter made sure not to allow me the same bonding but rather his other grandmother but she’s also used him against her as a method of control.

I’m interested in any information you got on this subject please!!

Regards,

Kim

Hi Kim,

Did your question about your daughter using the grandchildren as weapons against you ever answered? I’m having the same problem.

Yvonne Salas

Kim I am also going through the same thing with my daughter she uses my grandson as pawn he is currently in DCF all because she started to date this guy who physically abused my grandson because of my depression that was caused because of her I cant see him I am so heart broken and these people don’t understand the psychological damage their doing to my grandson being that he always depend on me when his mother wasn’t around I feel helpless and need encouragement

Did you ever obtain any information on the emotional impact on children who are abruptly cut off from their grandparents? I saw that you requested information back in November of 2016.
Any information would be helpful.

Would you please contact me..I just put my story about if Grandchildren abruptly cut off of due to both parents passing away Thankyou. Sincerely Deana Fussner

Hi Deana,
I would love to read you story on grandparents being taken away abruptly. Could you possibly share where I can find it? Though my situation is different, my grandson’s father will not allow me to see him just because he doesn’t like me. I raised him with my daughter for 5 years, in his absence and though I am completely heart broken, I am even more so for grandson, now 10. It is psychological abuse and neglect and I worry every day of the irreparable harm it is doing.
Thank you and many blessings to you and yours, Kellie

I see the same questions I have already asked by others but no answers.

You need to go to counseling with your daughter. She has hurt in her life that she blames you for. It may have nothing to do with you but she is angry and hurt that you didn’t do anything about something you didn’t even know about. Maybe just asking her will bring it out. Hope that helps.

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