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Prevalence And Increasing Interest

Increases in life expectancy have made grandparenthood more prevalent. Although only about 39 percent of all males and 43 percent of all females born between 1900 and 1902 survived to age sixty-five, projections for those born between 1949 and 1951 are 62 percent for males and 74 percent for females (Anderson 2001). Whereas the number of people aged sixty-five or older was 3.1 million (4.1% of the population) in 1900, it increased to 35 million (12.4%) in 2000, and it is projected to be 70 million (20%) in 2030 (Administration on Aging 2001).

Of children born in 1900, only one in four had all four grandparents alive, and by the time they reached fifteen years, only one in fifty still had all four grandparents alive. In comparison, approximately one-third of those who were twelve years old in the early 1990s had all of the four grandparents alive, and approximately 70 percent had at least two of them alive when they reached adulthood (Szinovacz 1998).

Longer life expectancy has also led to a longer period of grandparenthood. Once someone becomes a grandparent, he or she will have that status for a much longer time than previous generations. It is typical for one to become a grandparent in his or her forties, and some people, particularly women, become grandparents in their thirties (Timberlake and Chipungu 1992). Because some people may be grandparents for several decades, grandparenthood has become a more meaningful stage in one's life course. An increase in the number of single-parent households, resulting from either divorce or birth out of wedlock, has made the role some grandparents fulfill in rearing children more important than it had been previously. Instead of playing merely a supportive role for grandchildren, many grandparents now play an active role in rearing and socializing their grandchildren. Due to prevalence of three-generational households and stronger intergenerational relationships and norms (such as the idea of filial responsibility and familism), grandparenthood appears to be emphasized in foreign countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelatives & Extended FamilyGrandparenthood - Prevalence And Increasing Interest, Grandparenting Styles, Quality Of Relationship, Gender And Relationships, Demographic Factors And Grandparenthood