Choice and Constraint in the Negotiation of the Grandparent Role: A Mixed-Methods Study

Gerontol Geriatr Med. 2018 Jan 15;4:2333721417750944. doi: 10.1177/2333721417750944. eCollection Jan-Dec 2018.


Few studies have examined how the allocation and consequences of grandchild care vary across different socioeconomic groups. We analyze qualitative data alongside data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), in a convergent mixed-methods approach. Regression models examined characteristics associated with grandchild care, and the relationship between grandchild care and depressive symptoms and well-being. Qualitative data shed light on processes and choices that explain patterns of grandchild care provision. Tertiary-educated grandparents provided less intensive grandchild care compared with primary educated. Qualitative data indicated that this pattern stems from early boundary-drawing among higher educated grandparents while lower socioeconomic groups were constrained and less able to say no. Intensive grandchild care was associated with more depressive symptoms and lower well-being and was moderated by participation in social activities and level of education attainment. The effect of grandchild care on well-being of grandparents depends on whether it is provided by choice or obligation.

Keywords: aging; depression; grandchild care; grandparents; quality of life.