FES | Federación Española de Sociología

XII Congreso de la FES

The demography of grandparenthood across Europe: the role of life histories

GT 26 Sociología de la Población y Demografía

Bruno Arpino (Universitat Pomepu Fabra)
Jordi Gumà (Universidad Pompeu Fabra)
Albert Julià Cano (Universidad de Barcelona y Universidad Pompeu Fabra)


Sesión de comunicaciones orales Franja 3 : Reproducción de las generaciones y desequilibrios estructurales de las poblaciones
Responsable(s): Pau Miret Gamundi (Centre d'Estudis Demogràfics)
Tipo de sesión: Sesión de comunicaciones orales
Día: viernes, 1 de julio de 2016
Hora: 09:00 a 10:45
Lugar: 010

The role of grandparents is increasingly important in ageing European countries. Provision of grandparental childcare has been found to help mothers to participate in the labour market, to increase adult children’s fertility and to have positive effects on grandchildren’s outcomes. Also, supplementary grandchild care usually has been found to produce positive effects on grandparents’ health.

Lower fertility levels coupled with increased longevity and improvements in health conditions in later life have created an unprecedented opportunity for the grandparents’ role. Grandparents nowadays have fewer children to take care of and their lives are likely to overlap with those of their grandchildren for a longer period of time than in the past. How these and related demographic factors shape grandparenthood has not received sufficient attention in the literature.

We use a life course approach aiming at assessing the role of individual life histories (in particular, marital and fertility histories) on the probability of being grandparent and on the number of grandchildren people have at different ages. We use retrospective data collected in the third wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), called SHARELIFE, and sequence analyses to cluster individuals according to similar patterns of life histories. Then we use the cluster membership as predictors of being grandparent and the number of grandchildren each person has, using information from the first two waves of SHARE.

We also study how life histories influence provision of grandchild care. Several studies have analysed the factors associated with grandparents’ involvement in providing childcare and the contextual factors that contribute explaining across country differences. However, these studies have mostly focussed on factors (such as health, number of children and grandchildren, marital status, working status, etc.) measured at the time of the survey and have overlooked the importance of life experiences.

We expect that people that had less children and at later ages will have fewer grandchildren and will be less likely to take care of them because they will be older. Having experienced different partnerships may actually increase the number of grandchildren but it is difficult to predict its effect on provision of grandchild care. From one hand, divorced grandparents, especially men, may have less contacts with their (grand)children from previous partnerships. On the other hand, they could have contacts with (grand)children from following partnerships. Different results are expected across European countries, both in life trajectories and grandparenthood.

Palabras clave: Grandparents; grandparental childcare; lifecourse; fertility histories; marital histories; SHARE