While much has been written about parents, relatively little has been written about grandparents and their relationship with their grandchildren. However, about three-quarters of adults will become grandparents, and the average age at which they become grandparents is currently around 54 in the UK. Thus, most people will be grandparents for about a third of their lives. With declining birth rates and the demographic aging of Western industrialized societies, family ties are changing from broad from horizontal to narrow/vertical structures or “families on a pivot” in which grandparents may play an increasingly important role. And this role should be of interest to a wide range of psychologists, especially specialists in developmental, social, clinical and educational sciences. Nowadays grandparents usually get good press. It wasn’t always case.
Clinical case studies from the 1930s to the 1950s such as “Grandma:
The Trouble in Raising Children and Grandma Made Johnny Delinquent denounced the adverse influence of grandmothers who, in old-fashioned and didactic ways, interfered with the mother’s upbringing of children. In fact, there is some supporting evidence: Staples and Smith (1954) found that grandmothers have more strict and authoritarian attitudes than mothers. But views on parenting were changing rapidly in the 1950s, and in interviewing older people in the UK, Townsend reported that “grandparents were especially lenient with grandchildren.”