The Psychology of Grandparenthood: An International Perspective

The Psychology of Grandparenthood: An International Perspective

The Psychology of Grandparenthood: An International Perspective

The Psychology of Grandparenthood: An International Perspective

Synopsis

The majority of people will now spend about one-third of their lives as grand-parents, yet developmental psychologists have largely ignored the nature of the grandparental role, and the influence which grandparents can have on grand-children. This book redresses the balance and uses life-span evolutionary and psychodynamic theoretical frameworks to provide a comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of grandparenthood from cross-cultural perspectives.

Much recent work in developmental psychology has disregarded the extended family in favour of the two-generational nuclear family of parents and children. But grandparents do have a significant role in family relationships and children's development. This volume contains detailed discussion of intergenerational transmission of parenting skills, cooperation and conflict in three-generational families and the ways in which grandparents and grandchildren perceive one another.

The importance of considering social and cultural contexts of development applies to grandparents just as much as to other areas of human development. Kinds of family structure, social policies regarding employment, health and housing, attitudes to marriage and even particular historical events all have an impact on the position and role of grand-parents and on stereotypes of old age. These factors vary considerably from country to country. Our understanding of grandparenthood can only be enriched by learning about the variety of ways in which it is expressed in difference cultural settings. Most precious research has been confined to the USA. This book is truly international, containing contributions from Britain, Canada, Finland, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, West Germany and the USA. International comparisons enable us to see which elements are essential to grandparenthood and which are culture-dependent.

In most Western countries the population is ageing and this sort of study is becoming vitally important. The Psychology of Grandparenthood is required reading for anybody who is professional involved with the elderly and for psychologists interested in development, the life-span and family systems.

Excerpt

This book has provided an opportunity to do two things: first, to make a contribution to a relatively neglected area; second, to bring together contributors from a number of different countries, working on a broadly similar theme.

All the contributors to this book would probably agree that grandparents have had a relatively poor deal from researchers in developmental psychology. Until recently, the topic of grandparents and their relationships with children and grandchildren has been neglected, with developmental psychologists mainly being interested in infancy and childhood and only rarely considering periods of the lifespan after early adulthood. Many of the contributors for this book met for the first time at the Third European Conference on Developmental Psychology, in Budapest in June 1988; some others were at the Tenth Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, held at Jyväskylä, Finland, in July 1989. So far as we are aware the papers presented were the first on grandparenthood at these series of conferences. I had a similar experience at the Developmental Section meeting of the British Psychological Society, held at Harlech, Wales, in September 1988, at which an earlier version of the material in the first chapter was presented; this was the only paper on grandparents and one of only two or three relevant to the latter half of the lifespan.

The balance has been redressed most thoroughly in North America. Over the last decade (as documented further in Chapter One) there has been a spurt of research on grandparenthood, and several notable contributions have appeared. These include books by Cohler and Grunebaum (1981), Kornhaber and Woodward (1981), Bengtson and Robertson (1985), and Cherlin and Furstenberg (1986), as well as many journal articles and theses. This work has clearly influenced many of the European contributions featured in this book.

However, the importance of considering the social and cultural context of development applies to grandparents and grandchildren just as much as to other areas of human development. The kinds of family structure, social policies regarding employment, health and housing, divorce rates, as well as traditions and stereotypes regarding older people, and even particular historical events such as war or revolution, will all have an impact on the position and role of grandparents; and these vary considerably from country to country. Our . . .

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