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Quality Of Relationship

Quality of relationships between grandparents and young adult grandchildren was assessed by Gregory E. Kennedy (1992). He claims that five elements of the relationship are important to evaluate the quality from the grandchildren's viewpoint. They are sense of closeness, being known, knowing grandparents, being positively influenced, and having an authentic relationship independent of the parents. In general, the quality of the relationship is better with grandmothers than with grandfathers. The quality is also generally better when grandparents live nearby or with grandchildren, when they are in frequent contact, when the parents experience either divorce or single motherhood, and/or when the grandchild is an only child or a first born child (Roberto, Allen, and Blieszner 2001).

Thomas E. Denham and Craig W. Smith (1989) categorize the nature of grandparental influence into three kinds: indirect, direct, and symbolic. Indirect influence refers to factors that affect grandchildren only through the effects on the middle-generation parents, such as psychological or financial support and/or stress. Direct influence refers to face-to-face grandparent-grandchild interaction. Grandparents may baby-sit grandchildren. They may joke, watch television, or go out with grandchildren, thus providing fun. They may give grandchildren advice, teach them skills and games, and even discipline them. They often give grandchildren money and presents. By telling grandchildren what it was like growing up themselves, grandparents serve as observational models for grandchildren. In some cases, grandparents work as "arbitrators" between their children and their grandchildren in confrontations between two different values and personalities.

Symbolic influence, on the other hand, refers to the effect of grandparents just being there without necessarily performing concrete functions. Grandchildren feel good to have grandparents as a stress buffer, whom they can go to in case of conflict among family members. Grandparents give grandchildren a sense of family continuity from the past to the present to the future by offering roots for the family. Grandparents may also be considered family watchdogs who are there to keep an eye on the family members (Troll 1983). Of the three kinds of influences, symbolic influence seems to be the most important. Although grandparents may be "backstage" most of the time, they are the backbone of the extended family, and they will be available for help if necessary.

In fact, grandparents seem to do very little in the grandparent-grandchildren relationship (Tinsley and Parke 1984). However, having grandparents seems to be important in itself. As such, the presence of grandparents has been found to be very important for the psychological and behavioral development of small children (Tinsley and Parke 1984).

Additional topics

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