Generative grandfathering, commitment, and contact: How grandfathers nurture relationships with grandchildren and the relational and mental health benefits for aging men

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


D. Bruce Carter


Grandfathering, Mental health, Grandfathers, Depressive symptoms, Generativity, Grandchildren

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Researchers know very little regarding grandfathers' involvement in the lives of grandchildren and the effects that involvement has on the quality of relationships with grandchildren and grandfathers' mental health, specifically depressive symptoms. It is widely accepted that supportive family relationships play an important role in reducing depressive symptoms in middle aged and older adults. Various literatures suggest there are three factors important in precluding depressive symptoms and in building relationships with family members, including family relationships that span generations. These factors are participation in activities, frequency of contact, and perceptions of commitment. This dissertation is a compilation of two studies. The purpose of Study 1 was to develop, pilot test, and validate two scales: the generative grandfathering scale and the intergenerational commitment scale. In Study 1, 188 grandfathers completed the newly developed scales. Results indicate that there was strong evidence for convergent and discriminant validity of the generative grandfathering subscales and face validity for the commitment scale. The internal structures of the scales were valid and the internal consistency of the scales was satisfactory. The purposes of Study 2 were to test two path models and test for race/ethnicity differences on key variables in a sample of 145 grandfathers. Regarding the direct pathway model, I hypothesized that participation in activities, frequency of contact, and commitment would predict depressive symptoms. Regarding the indirect pathway model, I hypothesized that activities, contact, and commitment would predict relationship quality and that relationship quality would in turn predict depressive symptoms. I hypothesized that African American grandfathers would report greater participation in activities with grandchildren, higher levels of relationship quality, but also greater levels of depressive symptoms than European American grandfathers. Results indicate that aspects of both the direct and indirect models predicted depressive symptoms. There was no evidence for effects of ethnicity on relationship quality, depressive symptoms, or five of the six generative grandfathering work ethics. There were ethnicity effects for recreation work. Findings highlight the importance of grandfathers' involvement in grandchildren's lives in enhancing the quality of the grandfather-grandchild relationship as well as playing a potentially preclusive effect on depressive symptoms in aging men.


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