Grandparent-grandchild relationships over time: Connections with the middle generation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Barbara Fiese



Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology


This study, a secondary analysis of University of Southern California's "Longitudinal Study of Generations and Mental Health, 1971-1991," investigated continuity in grandparent-grandchild relationships from the grandchildren's young adulthood to their adulthood and how relationships with parents influence this connection. Participants, identified in 1971-1972 (Time-1), were males over 55 years with a grandchild between 16 and 26 years, their spouses, their grandchildren, and the grandchildren's parents. In 1985-1986 (Time-2), 75 families had targeted members from all three generations participate at both times of measurement. Two a priori hierarchical regressions predicted, respectively, grandparents' and grandchildren's Time-2 affective solidarity with each other; based on a developmental family systems perspective, predictor variables included Time-1 grandparent-grandchild affective solidarity, gender of each generation, grandparents' affective solidarity with the parents, parents' Time-2 affective solidarity with the grandparents and the grandchildren, and grandchildren's Time-2 affective solidarity with their parents. The model significantly accounted for 72% of the variance in grandparents' Time-2 feelings of connectedness with their grandchildren. Significant predictors included grandparents' Time-1 affective solidarity with their grandchildren (37% of the variance), grandparents' Time-2 affective solidarity with parents (15%), parents' Time-2 affective solidarity both with grandchildren and grandparents (5% and 3%, respectively), grandchildren's affective solidarity with their grandparents (2%), and the gender of the grandparents and parents (3% and 7%, respectively). This model also significantly accounted for 35% of the variance in grandchildren's Time-2 affective solidarity with their grandparents. Grandchildren's Time-1 affective solidarity with their grandparents accounted for 27% of the variance and grandchildren's Time-2 affective solidarity with their parents significantly accounted for an additional 5%. These results suggest that the grandparent-grandchild relationship is relatively continuous as grandchildren move from young adulthood to adulthood. In addition, parents' relationships with the other two generations are related to how connected grandparents and grandchildren feel toward one another even when grandchildren are adults. Grandparents appear to base their relationships with their grandchildren on their relationships with the parents and on the parents' relationships with the grandchildren. As for adult grandchildren, they seem to base some of their feelings about their grandparents on their feelings for their parents.