Solidarity in the Grandparent-Adult Grandchild Relationship and Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms

Gerontologist. 2016 Jun;56(3):408-20. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu056. Epub 2014 Jun 6.


Purpose of the study: Grandparent-adult grandchild relationships are becoming longer and more common, and therefore potentially more influential in the lives of individuals. This study examined the influence of solidarity (i.e., affinity, contact, and functional exchange) in the grandparent-adult grandchild relationship upon the depressive symptoms of both members of the dyad.

Design and methods: The study used data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a survey of 3- and 4-generation U.S. families that included 7 waves of data collection between 1985 and 2004. The sample was comprised of 374 grandparents and 356 adult grandchildren. We analyzed the data using multilevel growth curve models.

Results: For both grandparents and adult grandchildren, greater affinity reduced depressive symptoms and more frequent contact increased symptoms. For grandparents only, receiving functional support without also providing it increased depressive symptoms.

Implications: The average grandparent-adult grandchild relationship is a source of both support and strain to both generations. These relationships exhibit great diversity, however, with large amounts of variation between dyads and within a single dyad over time. We suggest how policy makers and practitioners can identify the relational contexts that best promote the well-being of members of both generations.

Keywords: Analysis; Depression; Hierarchical linear modeling; Intergenerational relationships; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Grandparents / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires