Volume 39 - Article 42 | Pages 1105–1150

Family histories and the demography of grandparenthood

By Bruno Arpino, Jordi Gumà, Albert Julià

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Date received:22 Nov 2017
Date published:29 Nov 2018
Word count:6178
Keywords:family trajectories, fertility, grandparents, life course analysis, partnership, sequence analysis


Background: Grandparenthood is an important phase of life for many individuals, and the grandparent role has consequences on younger generations and grandparents themselves.

Objective: Despite the importance of the grandparent role, little is known about the demography of grandparenthood. In this study, we examine the variability of demographic aspects of grandparenthood (being a grandparent, number of grandchildren, having at least one young grandchild) according to family (partnership and fertility) histories.

Methods: Using retrospective data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), we employ sequence and cluster analyses to group individuals according to similar patterns of fertility and partnership histories observed between age 15 and 49. In a second step, we use logistic and Poisson regressions to quantify how demographic aspects of grandparenthood vary across the identified family clusters at different ages and by gender.

Results: Family histories are greatly heterogeneous with respect to timing, quantum, and probability of experiencing certain events. This heterogeneity is reflected in a strong variability in the probability of having (young) grandchildren and their number at different ages across the clusters of family trajectories.

Contribution: We provide a detailed profile of three demographic characteristics of grandparenthood that significantly influence the opportunity structure for the development of the grandparent role. Our study quantifies considerable heterogeneities in the demography of grandparenthood according to different typologies of family histories and has important implications for the understanding of current and possible future developments of the grandparent role.

Author's Affiliation

Bruno Arpino - Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy [Email]
Jordi Gumà - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]
Albert Julià - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain [Email]

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