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Journal ArticleDOI

Patterns of intergenerational support in grandparent-grandchild and parent-child relationships in Germany

01 Sep 2007-Ageing & Society (Cambridge University Press)-Vol. 27, Iss: 05, pp 643-665
TL;DR: In this paper, a review of the literature on functional aspects of the grandparent-grandchild relationship is presented, after which the research hypotheses about intergenerational support in the relationship are elaborated.
Abstract: The paper focuses on intergenerational support relations between grandparents and their grandchildren in Germany, and how they have changed from 1996 to 2002. The paper begins with a brief review of the literature on functional aspects of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, after which the research hypotheses about intergenerational support in the relationship are elaborated. Following a description of the data source, the German Ageing Survey, and its samples and measures, the evidence on the patterns of grandparents’ provision and receipt of intergenerational support to and from their grandchildren are presented and compared with parent-child support patterns. The analysis also considers variations by age groups and birth cohorts and changes over time. The main empirical finding is that there was a greater likelihood of financial transfers to grandchildren in 2002 than six years earlier. Nevertheless, the grandparents’ relationships with their grandchildren remained imbalanced or asymmetrical, at the older generation’s expense. It was found that financial and instrumental support patterns between grandparents and grandchildren were best explained using an ‘intergenerational stake ’ hypothesis rather than one of ‘ intergenerational solidarity’ ; the latter is more consistent with parent-child support patterns.

Summary (3 min read)

Introduction

  • The widespread experience of grandparenthood is a recent phenomenon.
  • Most people not only become grandmothers or grandfathers but also see their grandchildren grow up, many to the point that they have begun a family of their own.
  • In Germany, only recently has a sociological research interest in grandparenthood been seen, which is astonishing given that never before have there been so many grandparents and grandchildren.
  • After the theoretical sections, the data for the analysis from the German Ageing Survey are described.
  • These are compared with those of parent-child relationships, and then the impact of grandparents’ age on the relationship and specific aspects of the support pattern are explored.

Grandparents as family supporters

  • If the growing number of grandparents in Germany stimulated little sociological research interest until the mid-1990s, the functional dimensions of grandparent-grandchild relationships raised even less.
  • During the 1990s, several researchers with an interest in intergenerational relations began explicitly to examine the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren (e.g. Lange and Lauterbach 1997, 1998; Lauterbach 1995b, 2002; Marbach 1994; Wilk 1993).
  • One of the first studies of grandparenthood stressed the supporting role of grandmothers as ‘ rescuers ’ of families (von Hentig 1946) ; this theme re-emerged during the 1970s and 1980s in the wake of the rising numbers of divorces, ‘out-of-wedlock’ births, and lone mothers (e.g. Cherlin and Furstenberg 1986; Kivett 1985).
  • Bass and Caro (1996) estimated that American grandparents provided child-care services worth $17–29 billion each year.
  • They have provided the theoretical framework for the present analysis.

The intergenerational solidarity hypothesis

  • Vern Bengtson developed the intergenerational solidarity construct with the parent-child relationship in mind (for the precursors and elaboration of the solidarity model, see Bengtson 1975; Bengtson, Olander and Haddad 1976; Bengtson and Schrader 1982).
  • The originally proposed three dimensions of normative, functional and structural solidarity were criticised because they failed to take into account the associations among the dimensions (cf. Atkinson, Kivett and Campbell 1986; Roberts and Bengtson 1990).
  • The intergenerational solidarity construct has subsequently become very influential, and has inspired numerous empirical studies worldwide (e.g. Attias-Donfut 2003; Bawin-Legros and Stassen 2002; Kohli et al. 2000; Hoff 2007).
  • It refers to the extent of resource sharing and support provision of various kinds, including financial, material, instrumental, emotional and cognitive support.
  • They drew attention to the various types of grandparental support to young grandchildren, including child-care, custodial care, and emotional, financial and instrumental support.

The intergenerational stake hypothesis

  • While the intergenerational solidarity construct explains the mutuality of supportive relations between older and younger people, it does not indicate how much they provide for one another.
  • Whereas parents tend to be more concerned with family continuity and preserving close relationships within the family, children tend to be most concerned with defending their individuality and retaining their autonomy and independence.
  • Several studies have confirmed the intergenerational stake hypothesis (e.g. Caldwell, Antonucci and Jackson 1998; Crosnoe and Elder Jr 2002; Harwood 2001).
  • Mexican grandsons showed more affection for their grandfathers than was reciprocated.

Age differentiation and changing needs hypotheses

  • The research evidence on the effect of grandparents’ and grandchildren’s ages on their relationships suggests that an alternative hypothesis explains variations in the levels of both the provision and the receipt of intergenerational support (e.g. Hodgson 1998; Roberto and Stroes 1995; Silverstein and Long 1998).
  • It has been shown that relationships between adult grandchildren and their grandparents differ from those between young grandchildren and their grandparents.
  • As a consequence, the relationship becomes more oriented towards the support of the grandparent (Ross et al. 2002).
  • This age-related argument effectively contradicts the intergenerational stake hypothesis for support relations between adult grandchildren and their grandparents and points instead to the ‘support bank’ hypothesis (Antonucci 1990).
  • This reasoning leads to the third and fourth hypotheses :.

Design and methodology

  • Some provided several types of financial transfers, while others reported just one transaction.
  • They also made financial contributions to their grandchildren, but children were far more likely to be recipients of financial support than grandchildren.

The impact of grandparents’ age on intergenerational support

  • A limitation of the German Ageing Survey is that it did not collect grandchildren’s ages.
  • In 1996, financial transfers to grandchildren were most common by the oldest age group (17 per cent reported such gifts), while among those aged 62–67 years only one-half of that percentage made similar transfers.
  • The receipt of instrumental assistance from children was by contrast largely age-dependent and needs-based, confirming the fourth hypothesis.
  • Instrumental support was most likely to be given to 80–85 year-olds.
  • Grandparents were far more likely to give financial support to their grandchildren than to receive instrumental assistance from them.

T A B L E 1. Intergenerational support patterns by age group of grandparents, 1996 and 2002, Germany

  • Whereas only eight per cent of this cohort reported financial transfers to grandchildren in 1996, more than one-fifth made such gifts in 2002.
  • Nearly one-fifth of the grandparents aged 62–85 years exchanged financial and instrumental transfers with their children, but the provision of only financial support by the older generation, without receiving anything in return, was again predominant.
  • For the analysis, the categories were represented by the mid-class values, e.g. 250–500 was represented by 375.
  • An age effect seems to be the most likely explanation, given that in 2002 the youngest respondents were 68 years old, and the oldest were well into the ‘ fourth age’.

T A B L E 2. Changing patterns of financial support of grandchildren and children,

  • In 2002, nearly one-fifth of 62–85 year-old grandparents provided financial support to their grandchildren, and onequarter to their children.
  • While a higher likelihood of financial transfers to grandchildren was found in all but the oldest cohort, only the oldest cohort reported a considerable decrease in their propensity to provide their children with financial assistance.
  • Thus, the ‘greater needs or capacity hypothesis ’ is rejected for the grandparent-grandchild relationship – but there is clear evidence of its validity for the parent-child relationship.
  • All national ageing surveys face the dilemma of wanting to collect as much information as possible but being constrained in doing so.

NOTES

  • 1 The survey was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth.
  • Additional details are given in the Acknowledgements, in Hoff et al. (2003) and in Engstler and Wurm (2006).
  • A preliminary overview of differences between the older non-German and German population can be found in Baykara-Krumme and Hoff (2006).
  • This graphic device was first used by the Research Group on Aging and the Life Course (FALL) at the Free University of Berlin to visualise the patterns of intergenerational transfers (see Kohli et al. 2000).

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Patterns of intergenerational support in
grandparent-grandchild and parent-child
relationships in Germany
ANDREAS HOFF*
ABSTRACT
The paper focuses on intergenerational support relations between grandparents
and their grandchildren in Germany, and how they have changed from 1996 to
2002. The paper begins with a brief review of the literature on functional aspects
of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, after which the research hypotheses
about intergenerational support in the relationship are elaborated. Following
a description of the data source, the German Ageing Survey, and its samples and
measures, the evidence on the patterns of grandparents’ provision and receipt
of intergenerational support to and from their grandchildren are presented and
compared with parent-child support patterns. The analysis also considers varia-
tions by age groups and birth cohorts and changes over time. The main empirical
finding is that there was a greater likelihood of finan cial transfers to grandchildren
in 2002 than six years earlier. Nevertheless, the grandparents’ relationships with
their grandchildren remained imbalanced or asymmetrical, at the older gener-
ation’s expense. It was found that financial and instrumental support patterns
between grandparents and grandchildren were best explained using an inter-
generational stake hypothesis rather than one of intergenerational solidarity ;
the latter is more consistent with parent-child support patterns.
KEY WORDS grandparents, intergenerational relations, interg enerational
solidarity, intergenerational stake, informal support, Germany.
Introduction
Despite popular belief, the widespread experience of grandparenthood is
a recent phenomenon. In the past, intergenerational relations across
three generations were very rare and usually of short duration (Hareven
2001; Lauterbach 1995 a). Today, family networks with four generations
have become relatively common, and three-generation family networks
are the norm (Harper 2005; Hoff 2006a). Grandparenthood has become
* Oxford Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford.
Ageing & Society 27, 2007, 643–665. f 2007 Cambridge University Press 643
doi:10.1017/S0144686X07006095 Printed in the United Kingdom

inseparably linked to old age and the role is seen as a normal stage of the
family cycle (Hoff and Tesch-Ro
¨
mer 2007). Most people not only become
grandmothers or grandfathers but also see their grandchildren grow up,
many to the point that they have begun a family of their own. Quite a few
live to see their great-grandchildren growing up. Bengtson (2001) sug-
gested that grandparents will play an increasingly important role in multi-
generational families. The combined effects of rising life expectancy (more
years spent with grandchildren) and falling fertility (fewer grandchildren)
may even have unexpected side effects, such as fit and wealthy grand-
parents competing for the attention of fewer grandchildren (Uhlenberg
2005).
In Germany, only recently has a sociological research interest in
grandparenthood been seen, which is astonishing given that never before
have there been so many grandparents and grandchildren. Lauterbach
(1995a) estimated that in the mid-1950s, only 13 per cent of 10-year-old
children had all four grandparents alive compared with 36 per cent in
the mid-1990s. By the new millennium, about 90 per cent of German
children had at least one grandmother and 70 per cent had a grand-
father (Lauterbach 2002). According to the German Ageing Survey of 1996,
nearly two-thirds of 55–69 year-olds had grandchildren, and more than
80 per cent of 70–85 year-olds (Kohli et al. 2000). Moreover, contempor-
ary grandparent-grandchild relationships last much longer than formerly.
By the mid-1990s, German grandparents and grandchildren had known
each other for an average of 20 years (Lauterbach 1995b; Lauterbach and
Klein 1997).
One objective of this paper is to examine change and continuity in
intergenerational-support relations between grandparents and grand-
children in Germany between 1996 and 2002. The paper has several
sections, the first being a theoretical discussion. Two frameworks that were
originally developed to explain intergenerational relationships between
contiguous generations have been applied to the grandparent-grandchild
relationship: the concept of intergenerational solidarity (Bengtson and
Roberts 1991), and the intergenerational stake hypothesis (Giarrusso,
Stallings and Bengtson 1995). Research hypotheses have been deduced
from both concepts and complemented by age-related hypotheses. After
the theoretical sections, the data for the analysis from the German
Ageing Survey are described. The findings sections begin with an account of
the mutual support patterns between grandparents and grandchildren,
that is the functional aspects of their relationships. These are compared
with those of parent-child relationships, and then the impact of grand-
parents’ age on the relationship and specific aspects of the support pattern
are explored.
644 Andreas Hoff

Grandparents as family supporters
If the growing number of grandparents in Germany stimulated little so-
ciological research interest until the mid-1990s, the functional dimensions
of grandparent-grandchild relationships raised even less. Grandparents
were first addressed as support providers in practice-oriented publications
in social work and family therapy. As in the United States, the earliest
publications emphasised the important role that grandparents play in
managing family crises, such as the divorce, separation or unemployment
of their children (Fabian 1994; Fthenakis 1998). There were similar early
studies in educational sociology that focused on child-care provision by
grandparents at times of crisis (Sommer-Himmel 2001). A study of the
informal-support mobilisation strategies of lone mothers, who are argu-
ably more in need of grandparental support than two-parent families,
found that on occasion German grandparents played a vital role in pro-
viding emergency child-care (Hoff 2006b).
The notion of intergenerational learning has motivated other studies
of the functional aspects of the grandparent-grandchild relationship (e.g.
Krappmann 1997; Lange and Lauterbach 1998; Lu
¨
scher and Liegle 2003).
While Krappmann (1997) emphasised the role that grandparents played
in the socialisation of their grandchildren, Lu
¨
scher and Liegle (2003)
stressed the mutuality of intergenerational learning in the grandparent-
grandchild relationship. During the 1990s, several researchers with an
interest in intergenerational relations began explicitly to examine the
relationship between grandparents and grandchildren (e.g. Lange and
Lauterbach 1997, 1998; Lauterbach 1995b, 2002; Marbach 1994; Wilk
1993).
In contrast to the concerns of German researchers, the functional
aspects of the grandparent-grandchild relationship have been a recurring
theme in North American family sociology for over 60 years (Szinovacz
1998). One of the first studies of grandparenthood stressed the supporting
role of grandmothers as rescuers of families (von Hentig 1946); this
theme re-emerged during the 1970s and 1980s in the wake of the rising
numbers of divorces, out-of-wedlock births, and lone mothers (e.g.
Cherlin and Furstenberg 1986 ; Kivett 1985). More recently, the supportive
function of grandparents has remained high on the US research agenda
(see Baydar and Brooks-Gunn 1998; Silverstein, Giarrusso and Bengtson
1998). Bass and Caro (1996) estimated that American grandparents pro-
vided child-care services worth $17–29 billion each year.
Recent American and British publications on functional aspects of
the grandparent-grandchild relationship have been concerned with the
potentially harmful effects of family change. Cooney and Smith (1996)
Support in grandparent-grandchild and parent-child relationships 645

examined the impact of parental divorce on functional solidarity between
grandparents and their adult grandchildren but did not find any as-
sociation. British researchers have studied grandparenting in divorced
families (Ferguson 2004), in support of lone parents (Harper et al. 2004),
and in reconstituted families (Dimmock et al. 2004). A shared conclusion
was that the maternal grandmother line attempts to preserve frequent
contacts with grandchildren, whereas the paternal grandparent line
maintains only limited contact. A French study produced similar findings
and emphasised the implication that there was a higher propensity for
support from the maternal than the paternal line (Gauthier 2002).
Custodial grandparenting is another keenly debated issue. According to
Harper (2005), some 3.7 million grandparents currently help in raising 3.9
million children in the United States. Silverstein (2006) noted that research
has for long tended to depict intergenerational transfers by grandparents
as an expression of altruism and self-sacrifice, especially given that
grandparents who assume parenting roles often do so at great cost to their
material, physical and mental wellbeing (Minkler et al. 2000). On the other
hand, Pruchno (1999) emphasised that many custodial grandmothers
found the role rewarding.
The introduction in the United States during the 1990s of large,
population-based surveys with questions about intergenerational support
stimulated the research interest in transfers between grandparents and
grandchildren (Kronebusch and Schlesinger 1994). Not only did this pro-
vide considerable improvements in the data resources and methodologies
for studying supportive relations between grandparents and grand-
children, but several theoretical concepts that were originally developed
to explain supportive behaviour between contiguous generations were
applied to the grandparent-grandchild relationship. They have provided
the theoretical framework for the present analysis.
Hypothesising intergenerational support
The intergenerational solidarity hypothesis
Vern Bengtson developed the intergenerational solidarity construct with
the parent-child relationship in mind (for the precursors and elaboration
of the solidarity model, see Bengtson 1975; Bengtson, Olander and
Haddad 1976 ; Bengtson and Schrader 1982). The concept refers to the
patterns of solidarity between parents and their adult children at
different stages of the lifecourse that promote intergenerational cohesion.
Bengtson and his colleagues recognised the complex nature of the inter-
generational solidarity construct, though later it proved even more
646 Andreas Hoff

multi-dimensional than first thought. The originally proposed three di-
mensions of normative, functional and structural solidarity were criticised
because they failed to take into account the associations among the di-
mensions (cf. Atkinson, Kivett and Campbell 1986; Roberts and Bengtson
1990). Bengtson and Roberts (1991) then augmented the construct and
posited another three dimensions associational, affectional and consen-
sual solidarity. The intergenerational solidarity construct has subsequently
become very influential, and has inspired numerous empirical studies
worldwide (e.g. Attias-Donfut 2003; Bawin-Legros and Stassen 2002;
Kohli et al. 2000 ; Hoff 2007).
Most relevant for the research reported in this paper is the functional
solidarity dimension. It refers to the extent of resource sharing and
(mutual) support provision of various kinds, including financial, material,
instrumental, emotional and cognitive support. It takes into account
both objective (e.g. frequency of support) and subjective aspects (e.g. per-
ception of support received). Silverstein, Giarrusso and Bengtson (1998)
later applied the model to grandparent-grandchild relations. They drew
attention to the various types of grandparental support to young grand-
children, including child-care, custodial care, and emotional, financial
and instrumental support. They found that, by contrast, grandparents
received expressive and instrumental support from adult grandchildren.
The first research hypothesis on functional solidarity to be examined refers
to this mutuality of support between grandparents and grandchildren:
Functional solidarity hypothesis: Mutuality of resource sharing and support
provision is a necessary precondition of functional solidarity. If inter-
generational solidarity applies to grandparent-grandchild relationships,
there must be give and take of support between the two generations.
The intergenerational stake hypothesis
While the intergenerational solidarity construct explains the mutuality of
supportive relations between older and younger people, it does not
indicate how much they provide for one another. The intergenerational
stake hypothesis elucidates this issue (Giarrusso, Stallings and Bengtson
1995). It reflects the empirical finding that older parents consistently report
higher levels of closeness and consensus in their relationships with their
(adult) children than do their children of their parents; in other words, the
two generations have different stakes in the mutual relationship.
Whereas parents tend to be more concerned with family continuity and
preserving close relationships within the family, children tend to be most
concerned with defending their individuality and retaining their auton-
omy and independence. As a consequence, parents tend to overstate
Support in grandparent-grandchild and parent-child relationships 647

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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper argued that family multigenerational relations will be more important in the 21st century for three reasons: (a) the demographic changes of population aging, resulting in "longer years of shared lives" between generations; (b) the increasing importance of grandparents and other kin in fulfilling family functions; (c) the strength and resilience of intergenerational solidarity over time.
Abstract: Family relationships across several generations are becoming increasingly important in American society. They are also increasingly diverse in structure and in functions. In reply to the widely debated “family decline” hypothesis, which assumes a nuclear family model of 2 biological parents and children, I suggest that family multigenerational relations will be more important in the 21st century for 3 reasons: (a) the demographic changes of population aging, resulting in “longer years of shared lives” between generations; (b) the increasing importance of grandparents and other kin in fulfilling family functions; (c) the strength and resilience of intergenerational solidarity over time. I also indicate that family multigenerational relations are increasingly diverse because of (a) changes in family structure, involving divorce and stepfamily relationships; (b) the increased longevity of kin; (c) the diversity of intergenerational relationship “types.” Drawing on the family research legacy of Ernest W. Burgess, I frame my arguments in terms of historical family transitions and hypotheses. Research from the Longitudinal Study of Generations is presented to demonstrate the strengths of multigenerational ties over time and why it is necessary to look beyond the nuclear family when asking whether families are still functional.

1,424 citations


"Patterns of intergenerational suppo..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Bengtson (2001) suggested that grandparents will play an increasingly important role in multigenerational families....

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BookDOI
01 Jan 1988
TL;DR: This volume provides an overview of each component of the acute and long-term care service continuum, including managed health care, subacute care, nursing homes, community care case management, and private case management.
Abstract: The contributors to this volume provide an overview of each component of the acute and long-term care service continuum, including managed health care, subacute care, nursing homes, community care case management, and private case management. This volume is one of the first efforts to place these varied approaches side-by-side, highlighting the gaps and areas of duplication in the services delivery system. In addition, chapters address the emerging practices in long-term care financing and assisted living as well as the conceptual issues that need to be resolved to achieve acute and chronic care integration. This volume is of primary importance to professionals involved in long-term care, including administration, community nursing, social work, case management, discharge planning and policy.

1,108 citations

Journal ArticleDOI

1,015 citations


"Patterns of intergenerational suppo..." refers background or methods in this paper

  • ...Two theoretical constructs led to the hypotheses that have guided this research: the intergenerational solidarity hypothesis of Bengtson and Roberts (1991), and the intergenerational stake hypothesis of Giarrusso, Stallings and Bengtson (1995)....

    [...]

  • ...…explain intergenerational relationships between contiguous generations have been applied to the grandparent-grandchild relationship: the concept of ‘ intergenerational solidarity ’ (Bengtson and Roberts 1991), and the ‘ intergenerational stake hypothesis ’ (Giarrusso, Stallings and Bengtson 1995)....

    [...]

  • ...Bengtson and Roberts (1991) then augmented the construct and posited another three dimensions – associational, affectional and consensual solidarity....

    [...]

Frequently Asked Questions (1)
Q1. What are the contributions in "Patterns of intergenerational support in grandparent-grandchild and parent-child relationships in germany" ?

The paper focuses on intergenerational support relations between grandparents and their grandchildren in Germany, and how they have changed from 1996 to 2002. The paper begins with a brief review of the literature on functional aspects of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, after which the research hypotheses about intergenerational support in the relationship are elaborated.