Comparative Aspects Of Grandparenthood
The literature on comparative perspectives of grandparenthood is not extensive. Some articles, however, discuss different types of grandparent-grandchild relationships among African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics, focusing on the cultural emphasis on intergenerational relationships.
In terms of the classification developed by Andrew Cherlin and Frank Furstenberg, for example, African American grandparents are more likely to be either authoritative or influential than their white counterparts, suggesting a prevalence of parent-like behaviors among them (1985). Given the emphasis on family traditions and intergenerational relationships, it is expected that grandparents in Asia, Latin America, and Africa are more likely to be authoritative, influential, or supportive, rather than passive or detached.
Elizabeth Timberlake and Sandra Chipungu (1992) show that among African-American grandmothers, those living with their grandchildren tend to value "more highly the grandchild who enabled them to continue to feel useful" (p. 220). This stronger intergenerational relationship will continue after the African-American grandchild grows up (Ashton 1996). Due to slavery and subsequent unfavorable economic circumstances, African Americans are said to depend more upon the intergenerational cooperation involving services, properties, and relationships. This also indicates that African-American grandparents, on the average, play larger roles than their white counterparts.
Latin countries such as Italy, Spain, and those in South America are known to have the idea of familism. The family relationships are very important under this idea and the grandparent-grandchild relationship is no exception. Hispanic-American children, for example, are more likely to live with their grandparents than their white counterparts, if less than African Americans (Strom, Buki, and Strom 1997).
There is a strong correlation between the amount of time a grandparent and his/her grandchild spend together and the closeness of the relationship. In Japan, for example, Robert Strom and his colleagues (1995) found that grandparents who spend more than five hours per month with grandchildren and/or who take care of grandchildren daily tend to have a better relationship than others. Three-generational households have been more common among African Americans and Hispanic Americans and in East Asian countries, due to economic circumstances, the notion of familism, and filial responsibility, respectively. Thus, the grandparent-grandchild relationships tend to be stronger among these people than Euro-Americans.
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