Grandparents contribute to children's wellbeing

Research at the University of Oxford has shown how grandparents play a vital role in children's wellbeing and the results have been informing UK family policy.

Grandparents contribute to children's wellbeingA high level of grandparental involvement in a child's upbringing increases their well-being.

With changing family patterns, increased life expectancy, growing numbers of dual-worker households and higher rates of family breakdown, grandparents are now playing an increasing role in their grandchildren's lives.

Research by Professor Ann Buchanan from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention showed that a high level of grandparental involvement increases the well-being of children. A study of more than 1,500 children showed that those with a high level of grandparental involvement had fewer emotional and behavioural problems.

The role of grandparents is currently unaccounted for in UK family policy, and grandparents have no legal rights to see their grandchildren. However, Professor Buchanan's study has demonstrated that their involvement is strongly associated with reduced adjustment difficulties in all family types, but particularly so amongst adolescences from divorced or separated families.

Professor Buchanan has addressed all parliamentary parties to raise awareness of how grandparents positively contribute to children's well-being. The results of her research suggest that the role of grandparents in UK family policy should be re-evaluated.

Professor Buchanan has now re-analysed her original grandparent data, looking at the impact of grandfathers' involvement on child wellbeing. This shows that grandfathers' involvement, independent of grandmothers, is associated with child well-being but their involvement is different; whereas grandmothers are more involved in nurturing, grandfathers get involved in activities and mentoring.

Her recently completed edited book on 'Grandfathers: global perspectives' published by Palgrave Macmillan, includes this analysis, as well as chapters by scholars from around the world and three new studies relating to child wellbeing.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council