The prevalence of grandparental childcare in Europe: a research update

Eur J Ageing. 2023 Sep 25;20(1):37. doi: 10.1007/s10433-023-00785-8.

Abstract

We investigate (a) how the proportion of European grandparents providing childcare changed over a period of 15 years, (b) how these proportions differ by gender and education, and (c) how countries not covered in earlier analyses fit into previously identified regional patterns of grandparental childcare in Europe. Using data from Waves 1, 2, and 8 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), our descriptive analysis provides estimates of the prevalence and intensity of grandparental childcare in 26 European countries as well as of the changes therein over time and across socio-demographically defined groups. Overall, the prevalence and intensity of grandparental childcare in Europe has remained fairly stable over time, with minor increases. Proportions of grandparents providing any childcare strongly vary, however, across countries (from 24 to 60%). Grandmothers are generally more likely to provide childcare than grandfathers, while differences based on educational levels are less clear-cut. Central and southeastern Europe, representing the bulk of the 'new' countries in the analysis, exhibit patterns of grandparental childcare closely resembling those observed in Mediterranean countries. Our analysis revealed an overall stability over time rather than change in grandparents' provision of childcare in Europe, with substantial variations across welfare state regimes and within countries when accounting for grandparents' gender and educational levels. Including countries that had previously been excluded from other studies challenges the 'narrative' that has emerged around a negative macrolevel association between the provision of extensive and intensive grandparental childcare.

Keywords: Europe; Grandparental childcare; Grandparents; SHARE.