A survey conducted by Oxford University and the Institute of Education in London found that children are generally happier if grandparents are involved in their upbringing.
The research was based on the results of questionnaires with 1,596 children between the ages of 11 and 16 from across England and Wales. Researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 40 of the children from a range of backgrounds.
According to the Oxford study, relationships that adolescents have with their grandparents show that grandparents who are involved in the daily lives of their grandchildren can contribute to the children’s well-being.
The study disputes previous research that showed grandparents who are heavily involved in the lives of their grandchildren could become depressed and have a negative impact on the children.
The survey was led by principal investigator Professor Ann Buchanan, director of the Centre for Research into Parenting and Children in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at Oxford University, and co-investigator Dr. Eirini Flouri of the Institute of Education.
The two found that grandparents often have more time than working parents to provide support, advice and problem-solving for children, especially those grandparents who are serving in any type of caregiving capacity, whether it be full-time provider or part-time childcare.
“We were surprised by the huge amount of informal caring that the grandparents were doing and how in some cases they were filling the parenting gap for hard-working parents,” Buchanan said in a statement provided by Oxford. “Most adolescents really welcomed this relationship. What was especially interesting was the links we found between ‘involved grandparents’ and adolescent well-being. Closeness was not enough: Only grandparents who got stuck in and did things with their grandchildren had this positive impact on their grandchildren.”
In the statement, Flouri added that future research should concentrate further on the role grandparents play in the family unit.
“We found that close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren buffered the effects of adverse life events, such as parental separation, because [the relationships] calmed the children down,” Flouri said. “This suggests future investigations should pay more attention to the role of grandparents in developing resilience in young people.”
In addition to showing the role that grandparents play in bringing stability to their grandchildren, the study found that grandparents were instrumental in times of family adversity and appeared to help the whole family survive a crisis.