Strong grandparent-adult grandchild relationships reduce depression for both

August 12, 2013

A new study shows that grandparents and grandchildren have real, measurable effects on each other's psychological well-being long into grandchildren's adulthood.

"We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer for both generations," said Sara M. Moorman, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute on Aging at Boston College, who will present the study at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. "The greater grandparents and adult received from one another, the better their ."

The study also revealed that giving tangible support to or receiving it from their grandchildren affected the psychological well-being of grandparents but not grandchildren. Tangible support, also called functional or instrumental support, includes anything from rides to the store and money to assistance with household chores and advice.

"Grandparents who experienced the sharpest increases in over time received tangible support, but did not give it," said Moorman, who co-authored the study with Jeffrey E. Stokes, a PhD candidate in sociology at Boston College. "There's a saying, 'It's better to give than to receive.' Our results support that folk wisdom—if a grandparent gets help, but can't give it, he or she feels badly. Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it's frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren."

Comparatively, the researchers found that grandparents who both gave and received tangible support experienced the fewest symptoms of depression over time. "Therefore, encouraging more grandparents and adult grandchildren to engage in this type of exchange may be a fruitful way to reduce depression in ," said Moorman.

In their study, the researchers used data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a survey of 3- and 4-generation U.S. families that included seven waves of data collection between 1985 and 2004. The sample was comprised of 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren. The average grandparent was born in 1917 and the average grandchild in 1963, making them 77 years old and 31 years old, respectively, at the midpoint of the study in 1994.

In terms of the study's implications, Moorman said her research suggests that efforts to strengthen families shouldn't stop with the nuclear family or focus only on families with younger children. "Extended family members, such as grandparents and grandchildren, serve important functions in one another's daily lives throughout ," she said.

The study also indicates that helping older people remain functionally independent may aid their psychological well-being, according to Moorman. "Most of us have been raised to believe that the way to show respect to older family members is to be solicitous and to take care of their every need," Moorman said. "But all people benefit from feeling needed, worthwhile, and independent. In other words, let granddad write you a check on your birthday, even if he's on Social Security and you've held a real job for years now."

Explore further: The ties that bind: Grandparents and their grandchildren

More information: The paper, "Does Solidarity in the Grandparent/Grandchild Relationship Protect Against Depressive Symptoms?," will be presented on Monday, Aug. 12, at 4:30 p.m. EDT in New York City at the American Sociological Association's 108th Annual Meeting.

Related Stories

The ties that bind: Grandparents and their grandchildren

May 13, 2011
Close your eyes for a moment, open your treasure trove of memories and take a step back in time to your childhood. Do you remember your grandfather gently scooping you up into his warm and comforting embrace? Or sitting by ...

Children are kinder when Grandma and Grandpa are involved in their lives

November 16, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Grandparents love to boast about their grandkids’ accomplishments, and now a new study gives them credit for helping their young grandchildren be a little kinder and – in some cases – a little ...

Recommended for you

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

New study suggests that reduced insurance coverage for mental health treatment increases costs for the seriously ill

July 19, 2017
Higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care could have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of acute and involuntary mental health care among those suffering from the most debilitating disorders, a Harvard ...

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.