Out-dated assumptions about maternal grandmothers? Gender and lineage in grandparent-grandchild relationships

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The impact of lineage and gender on the quality of grandparent–grandchild relationships has become more complicated in recent decades. ‘In countries with high rates of couple dissolution and re-partnering, the number of a child’s potential grandparents increases as the parents of parents’ new partners or the new partners of grandparents become part of the family. The broadening of ‘family’ potentially puts new types of grandparents on an equal footing with biological grandparents. Loosening conventions around gender and more ‘maternal fathers’ may lead to ‘new grandfathers’ who are as hands-on as grandmothers. This paper re-examines the issues with quantitative and qualitative UK data. The evidence shows the persistence of a hierarchy of involvement, with maternal grandmothers at the top and paternal grandfathers the bottom but also counter-examples pointing to the possibilities of and limits on wider social change, as three generations negotiate relationships in the shifting socio-economic conditions of their national and local context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-274
Number of pages14
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number2
Early online date15 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • family
  • grandmother
  • grandfather
  • gender
  • grandchild
  • lineage


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