You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too. Does Grandparenting Compete with Social Participation?

Bruno Arpino, Pompeu Fabra University
Merih Ates, University of Mannheim
Valeria Bordone, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich

Increasing longevity in western societies has resulted in an unprecedentedly long shared lifespan between grandparents and grandchildren. A growing body of literature has explored the consequences of grandchild care on grandparents’ health and well-being. Although numerous studies consider role strain and role enhancement theory to explain this link, the mechanisms of such approaches are often neglected in empirical analyses. Furthermore, the evidence provided so far is inconclusive.

Our work will extend empirical knowledge and help gaining a better theoretical understanding. In particular, we are interested on an intermediate aspect linking grandchild care and grandparents’ health and well-being. Therefore, we investigate whether the provision of grandchild care competes with or adds to social participation (measured as engagement in leisure activities). On the one hand, grandchild care may increase the purpose in life and stimulate further participation in leisure activities. On the other hand, it may also impose time and energy constraints, reducing capacities for leisure activities

To test this, we use longitudinal data from the German Ageing Survey (DEAS), with a working sample of 8,468 person-year observations. We estimate fixed effects panel models to control for unobserved (time-constant) heterogeneity an include number of grandchildren as an instrument to address reverse causality. Separate models are run for men and women to account for heterogeneity in grandparental childcare and social participation by gender. Since social participation depends on individual resources, we also stratify our analyses by grandparents’ education.

Our results indicate a positive but not statistically significant relationship between grandfathers’ childcare and leisure activities. Among men, education does not play a role in this respect. Lower educated grandmothers tend to participate less in leisure activities, and the provision of grandchild care does not affect it. In contrast, higher educated grandmothers show higher engagement in leisure activities if they provide grandchild care.

Presented in Poster Session 1