Increased life expectancy has impacted every sphere of living today. Health, housing, and medical innovation are just a few areas. Family relationships have shifted accordingly with many family members caring for elderly loved ones. One aspect of these intergenerational connections has been the strong bond between grandparents and their grown grandchildren. In a recent article on LiveScience.com, a new study just released in particular shows the quality of those relationships has far-reaching implications for the mental health of both groups. The study which was conducted at Boston College was just presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York.
Covering nearly two decades, the research examined 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren, evaluating their mental health from 1985 to 2004. One striking finding was that grandparents and adult grandchildren had fewer symptoms of depression when they had close emotional ties. It’s now possible with grandparents’ extended life spans for the two cohorts to be involved in each other’s lives for much longer.
The study’s surveys asked participants questions about how often and to what extent did they help each other with tasks such as housework or rides to doctor’s appointments. Factored into the results was the importance of grandparents feeling like they were providing assistance to the grandchildren. This was evidenced by the more independent grandparents who gave advice or treated the grandchildren to presents experiencing less depression than those grandparents who were only the recipients of help.
Sara Moorman, professor of sociology and one of the study researchers summed it up, “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,” Moorman said.