Modern-day grandfathers contribute more to their grandchildren as mentors and carers

14 February 2017

In modern times, grandfathers are more involved in activities with their grandchildren, discussing their futures and acting as their mentors, says new research. The authors of a new book say these closer bonds are linked with better adjusted grandchildren and also associated with better mental health in the older men – as long as childcare duties are not too intensive. The authors of the new book, ’Grandfathers: Global Perspectives’, say the role of grandfathers has been largely ignored in academic literature or family policy and their work aims to redress the balance, offering original research from countries around the world.

The book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is edited by Professor Ann Buchanan, Senior Research Associate in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford; and Professor Anna Rotkirch, researcher and director of the Population Research Institute in Vaestoliitto, Finland. The authors conclude that increased life expectancy and women going out to work has meant grandparents contribute far more now to family life than in the past. The scholars who contributed original research and research reviews to the book are from the UK, USA, Australia, Europe, Denmark, South Africa, Israel, Singapore, and Finland.

Key findings in the book:

  • Across Europe, 42% of grandfathers help look after their grandchildren compared with 44% of grandmothers.
  • Half of grandfathers in one study in the UK were found to have weekly (or more often) contact with their 9-month-old grandchildren.
  • A study by Grandparents Plus in the UK suggests that grandparent care (grandmothers and grandfathers) is worth £7.3 billion a year.
  • Four research studies, featured in the book, publish findings for the first time which show that children in the UK who took part in the Millennium Cohort Study achieved higher developmental scores on entry into primary school compared to those with no grandfather involvement.
  • Studies carried out in the UK, Israel and South Africa show that the involvement of grandfathers in the lives of their grandchildren is linked with better adjusted teenagers or more pro-social behaviour amongst adolescents (independent of grandmothers’ involvement).
  • Research from the US suggests that the involvement of grandfathers in their grandchildren’s lives is associated with better mental health for grandfathers as long as their involvement is not too intensive.
  • Divorce tends to cut out the grandfathers, with grandmothers being more likely to stay in touch with grandchildren. 

Professor Buchanan and Professor Rotkirch are available for media interviews. Please contact the University of Oxford News Office on +44 (0)1865 280534 or email:

Notes for Editors:

The book, ‘Grandfathers: Global Perspective’, edited by Ann Buchanan and Anna Rotkirch is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

The British Academy has nominated the book for the Peter Townsend Prize. The prize is awarded every two years for outstanding work with policy relevance in commemoration of Professor Peter Townsend, one of the most distinguished global figures in contemporary social policy and sociology.