Grandparent roles and welfare state context: a Nordic country in comparative perspective
Economics and Social Science University of Agder Kristiansand, Norway
Ageing and the life course NOVA Oslo, Norway
In many ageing societies, nearly half of young children have four grandparents. Yet, contemporary images of grandparents are full of contradictions. For example, in North American discussions, they have been declared "childsavers"- but also called redundant.
How much consensus do we find regarding a grandparent role in different European societies?
How is the role enacted in different societal contexts? Can welfare regimes help us account for variations in role enactment across societies? What appears to be key functions of grandparents in a Nordic welfare state - Norway?
These are key questions explored in this presentation.
Data and Methods
For a comparative backdrop, the presentation builds on material from the SHARE study, which includes questions on perceptions of the grandparental role and reports on grandparental behaviour.
The examination of Norwegian grandparenthood builds on two waves of the
Norwegian Longitudinal study of life course, ageing and generations
(NorLAG). The first wave (NorLAG1 2002/2003) includes questions about
what grandparents should do (N=5589, age 40-79). Analysis from the
second wave (LOGG/NorLAG 2 2007/2008, age 18-84) focuses on grandparental
support to young families. Respondents who have at least one parent
living and children aged 0-10 are included (n=3508).
We find more consensus regarding role expectations than we observe uniformities in grandparent behaviours. Specifically, the availability of parental leaves and public child care seem to result in a "reserve army" function being a central aspect of grandparenting in Norway. Ninety per cent of the respondents said grandparents should support adult children in their role as parents. Among respondents who were grandparents of children under 12, two-thirds reported taking care of grandchildren at least once a month.
Among respondents with children aged 0-10, about half reported receiving help with childcare from their parents. There were no significant differences between men and women, but help from mothers was mentioned twice as often as help from fathers. Lone mothers received more help from parents than women living with a partner. Divorce in the grandparent generation significant reduced help to children and grandchildren. This trend was particularly clear for grandfathers.