A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren reduces symptoms of depression

A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren reduces symptoms of depression in both well into grandchildren’s adulthood, according to a US study presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The researchers at Boston College used data from the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a survey of 3- and 4-generation US families with seven waves of data collection between 1985 and 2004. The sample was comprised of 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren. The average grandparent was born in 1917 and the average grandchild in 1963.

“We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations,” said first author Sara M. Moorman. “The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health.”

The study also revealed that giving tangible support – this includes anything from rides to the store and money to assistance with household chores – to or receiving it from their grandchildren affected the psychological well-being of grandparents but not grandchildren. Grandparents who only received tangible support experienced the sharpest increases in depressive symptoms over time. Comparatively, the researchers found that grandparents who both gave and received tangible support experienced the fewest symptoms of depression.

“There’s a saying, ‘It’s better to give than to receive.’ Our results support that folk wisdom,” said Moorman. “If a grandparent gets help, but can’t give it, he or she feels badly. Grandparents expect to be able to help their grandchildren, even when their grandchildren are grown, and it’s frustrating and depressing for them to instead be dependent on their grandchildren.”

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