Volume 43 - Article 53 | Pages 1545–1562 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

Looking after grandchildren: gender differences in ‘when,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why’: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

By Giorgio Di Gessa, Paola Zaninotto, Karen Glaser

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:15 May 2020
Date published:10 Dec 2020
Word count:2450
Keywords:activities, England, gender, grandchild care, grandparenting, grandparents, motivations, periodicity
Additional files:readme.43-53 (text file, 3 kB)
 demographic-research.43-53 (zip file, 14 kB)


Background: Grandparents play a vital role in providing childcare to families. However, little is known about when grandmothers and grandfathers look after grandchildren, what they do with them, and why.

Objective: Using novel questions on grandparenting, we first describe the periodicity of grandchild care, activities undertaken with/for grandchildren, and motivations for such care to then assess if there are gender differences.

Methods: We used wave 8 (2016/17) of the nationally-representative English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The extent to which the periodicity, activities, and motivations are gendered was assessed using logistic regressions. Analyses were carried out on the entire sample of grandparents who provide childcare as well as on coresiding grandparent couples where both grandparents provide grandchild care.

Results: More than 50% of grandparents looked after grandchildren, with the majority doing so throughout the year and about one in four during school holidays. Few gender differences were observed in the periodicity of grandchild care and reasons for looking after grandchildren, with almost two-thirds reporting that they wanted to help parents go to work and give them a break. However, when activities undertaken for/with grandchildren were analysed, clear gender differences emerged. Overall, grandmothers were more likely to report caring and helping activities (e.g., cooking, caring when sick, helping with homework, and collecting them from school) than grandfathers, even when they coresided.

Contribution: Our study is the first to document, at a population level, gender differences in the periodicity of grandchild care, what grandparents do when they look after grandchildren, and why they provide such care.

Author's Affiliation

Giorgio Di Gessa - University College London (UCL), United Kingdom [Email]
Paola Zaninotto - University College London (UCL), United Kingdom [Email]
Karen Glaser - King's College London, United Kingdom [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Blame the parents? The association between parental longevity and successful ageing
Volume 19 - Article 38

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Who becomes a grandparent – and when? Educational differences in the chances and timing of grandparenthood
Volume 37 - Article 29    | Keywords: gender, grandparents

» Spatial modelling of rural infant mortality and occupation in 19th-century Britain
Volume 36 - Article 44    | Keywords: England, gender

» Aligning household decision-making with work and education: A comparative analysis of women’s empowerment
Volume 48 - Article 19    | Keywords: gender

» The sex preference for children in Europe: Children’s sex and the probability and timing of births
Volume 48 - Article 8    | Keywords: gender

» Adolescent fertility and high school completion in Chile: Exploring gender differences
Volume 47 - Article 31    | Keywords: gender