Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Delay of Grandparenthood: A Cohort Comparison in East and West Germany

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Delay of Grandparenthood: A Cohort Comparison in East and West Germany

Article excerpt

With the aging of the baby boomers, a large number of older people are currently adopting the role of a grandparent. There is broad scholarly agreement that grandparenthood represents a key transition of older age, initiating one of the most salient, rewarding, and demanding roles of the later life course. Scholarly interest in this transition dates back to the 1980s, when the life-course perspective was introduced to the study of grandparenthood and analysts called for research on "unexplored issues" (Hagestad & Lang,1986) about the timing and context of the grandparent role. Yet, to this day, these issues remain largely unexplored.

According to life course theory (Elder, 1994; George, 1993), the lack of accurate information about timing and life-course context of grandparenthood not only constitutes a gap of demographic knowledge but also precludes a better understanding of the meaning, experience, and performance of the grandparent role. In modern societies, shifts in fertility, labor force participation, age at retirement, and life expectancy suggest that the timing and life-course context of grandparenthood, and hence the nature of the grandparent role, have changed substantially across cohorts.

In view of that, we designed the present study to answer three research questions: First, at what age do women and men experience the transition to grandparenthood? Second, how is this transition sequenced with role transitions in other spheres of life? Third, and most important, how have the timing and life-course context of grandparenthood changed across cohorts? To answer these questions, we adopted a comparative perspective, taking advantage of additional insights obtained from differences in political, economic, and demographic conditions that have distinctively shaped older people's life courses in East and West Germany.

It is important to note at the outset that our purpose was to provide a representative and up-to-date assessment of the timing and life-course context of grandparenthood as well as changes in these characteristics across cohorts. To this end, we analyzed retrospective data provided by prewar cohorts of respondents age 70 and above, as well as more recent, postwar cohorts of respondents who are currently experiencing the transition to grandparenthood. To calculate accurate estimates from these partially incomplete (i.e., right-censored) life-course data, we used methods of survival analysis, focusing on the presence or absence of-and demographic overlap between-the grandparent role and other social roles of the later life course. Accordingly, we limited our analysis to the potential for involvement in, rather than enactment of, each of these roles. This analytical approach follows population-based studies of role transitions that aimed to provide representative data about timing and sequence of role entries and role exits for transitions such as adulthood (Corijn & Klijzing, 2001), marriage and motherhood (Blossfeld & Jaenichen, 1992), first birth (Rindfuss, Morgan, & Swicegood, 1988), loss of parents (Gee, 1986), retirement (Drobnic, 2002), and widowhood (Hareven & Uhlenberg, 1995).

Our empirical analysis was based on data on 3,628 East and West German respondents from the 2008 wave of the German Aging Survey. To study the demographic context of grandparenthood, we examined how entries into the grandparent role were sequenced with three other roles: (a) the worker role, indicated by the presence or absence of paid employment; (b) the parent role, indicated by the presence or absence of dependent and/or coresident children; and (c) the filial role, indicated by the presence or absence of surviving parents. To capture change over time, we studied transitions to grandparenthood separately for three cohorts of mothers and fathers, born between 1929 and 1938 (prewar cohort), 1939 and 1948 (war cohort), and 1949 and 1958 (postwar cohort).

THE TRANSITION TO GRANDPARENTHOOD

The Timing of Grandparenthood

When do parents become grandparents? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.