Grandparenting in Europe Project

Key Findings

Our study shows that across Europe grandparents, and grandmothers in particular, are playing a major role in providing care for their grandchildren, with over 40% of grandparents in the 11 European countries studied providing childcare for their grandchildren without the child’s parents present. Younger grandmothers who are fit, healthy and with younger grandchildren – the most likely to be providing care for their grandchildren – are the very women who governments across Europe are aiming to encourage to stay in paid work for longer, in order to increase productivity and pay for their own pensions, health and social care in later life. Their vital but invisible role in providing childcare is likely to conflict with their own ability to finance their old age.  The risk is an emerging care gap as older women remain in work longer, become less available to provide childcare and so adversely affect mothers’ labour market participation.

On 15 March 2013 we hosted a conference at Europe House, Westminster, bringing together an international audience of policy makers and academics to consider the research findings and consult delegates on  what policy changes are needed to better support the role grandparents play in family life, as well as in the labour market.

The Project
G+Europe Video

This  project is  a four year partnership between Grandparents Plus, the Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Beth Johnson Foundation  to explore the role of grandparents within family life across Europe which makes a major contribution to our understanding of the demography of grandparenting and the role  grandparents play in family life across Europe.

The objective of the main study was to examine how different ‘grandparent policy regimes’  are related to levels of involvement of grandparents with their grandchildren in the following ten countries:

Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK.

The study  addressed the following questions:

  • How do the living arrangements of grandparents vary within and across European countries and how have they changed across time?
  • How do the characteristics of grandparents vary across Europe in terms of age, living arrangements, tenure status, socio-economic status, education, marital status, participation in paid work, retirement status and health?
  • How does the level of involvement of grandparents with their grandchildren vary across Europe in terms of contact, help and care? What characteristics of grandparents help to explain the diversity of arrangements?
  • For the ten countries to be examined, how do family policies vary, and how are these variations in policy related to observed diversity in the levels of involvement of grandparents with their grandchildren?

The methodology used combined multivariate analysis of Census data and other international data sets on older people, and policy analysis. The  researchers developed a typology of grandparenting to gain theoretical insights into the relationship between public policy and grandparenting roles across the ten countries.

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For a power point presentation on the final findings, click here.

For a power point presentation on the impact on grandparents of their caring responsibilities, click on the following here.

In June 2010 we published the findings of our scoping study which reviewed existing literature on the role of grandparents in Europe and also highlighted key policies likely to be important in shaping the role grandparents play in family life.

Preliminary findings from the study were presented at a seminar on the 28th June 2012 at Europe House, Westminster.

Read the preliminary findings here

The next stage of the project was an analysis of the impact on grandparents’ health and wellbeing of their caring role, which was completed in October 2014. This stage of the project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

For further information about the project, contact:

Sarah Wellard, Policy and Research Manager at Grandparents Plus or
Karen Glaser, Reader at the Institute of Gerontology, Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London

All media coverage can be found here