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A selfish generation? 'Baby boomers', values and the provision of childcare for grandchildren

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    Rights statement: The final version of this paper has been published in The Sociological Review, Vol/Issue, Month/Year by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. © The Authors, 2020. It is available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0038026120916104

    Accepted author manuscript, 762 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalThe Sociological Review
Early online date4 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2020


‘Baby boomers’, born after the Second World War, have been portrayed as selfish and individualistic, depriving subsequent generations of the opportunities they benefited from. This debate has ignored intergenerational transfers within families, such as provision of grandparental childcare. This article explores why grandparents choose to provide childcare for grandchildren while their adult children are working. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 55 grandparents, we argue that values are essential to understanding why grandparents chose to provide childcare in the first place. These relate to the importance of family-based childcare, familial obligations towards adult children, and intergenerational solidarity. While values shaped the desire to provide some childcare, the socio-economic and employment circumstances of adult children and grandparents influenced the nature of the childcare provided and the changes grandparents made to their lives to accommodate caring. Some grandparents significantly changed their employment and housing circumstances to provide childcare, undermining the stereotype of a ‘selfish generation’.

    Research areas

  • baby boomers, grandparents, childcare, employment, values

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