following two pages are for a study done by
Norwegian sociologist Knud Knudsen. Knudsen concludes that
Grandfathers are distinctly different from Grandmothers
and play a very important role in the extended family dynamic.
spend much time with their grandchildren. Past 70, the
grandfather takes the lead.
Norwegian sociologist Knud Knudsen sets great store by his
grandchildren. In that respect, he is typical of the grandparents in
Europe who are the subjects of his recent research. “Europeans
generally opt to spend a good deal of time with their
grandchildren,” says 67-year-old Knudsen. “And grandfathers appear
to be more involved than before,” he adds.
In a new study, he found that grandmothers are clearly more involved
with their grandchildren when a couple is younger.
However, this gender disparity gradually changes with the years.
Among the oldest age groups, grandfathers usually show greater
solicitude. At the same time, he has found that involvement with
grandchildren naturally enough declines for both genders with
Knudsen himself has four grandchildren aged between one and 11 and
he is together with them as often as possible for both play and more
serious matters. He and wife Gro collect grandchildren every Tuesday
both from nursery school and day care facilities before the
youngsters start homework, sports, dinner and play. They often
devote the weekend to their extended family and babysitting. “It
provides new insights and instructive challenges, and gives more
meaning to life,” says Knudsen, who is professor at the University
of Stavanger (UiS). His study embraces about 5 500 grandparents aged
60-85 in 11 European countries – Austria, Denmark, France, Greece,
Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and
Grandmothers have traditionally had greater and more varied contact
with the rest of the family, with responsibility for maintaining
relationships, Knudsen observes. He thinks that for a woman, mother
and grandmother, norms for caring are clearer for her and she
inspires the grandfather. A partner is accordingly important for
contributing to the extended family. “That applies particularly for
men as they get older. In line with other studies of gender and
partnership, we see here that men in particular benefit from
Unlike earlier generations, when children came before education and
job, modern parents are often older and in full work when they
become responsible for offspring.” Noting that this is where
grandparents come in, he describes this as a win-win position.
“Healthier and fitter grandparents who want to be with their
grandchildren can be a big help to careerist parents in a hectic
We’ll be seeing more grandparents looking after their grandchildren
in the future, and grandfathers in particular.
And women still live longer than men. Although this can vary
greatly, a man of 70 has a partner beside him more often than a
woman of the same age. “So while grandmothers are usually alone, a
grandfather is in a marriage. Having a younger and healthy partner
seems to be crucial for a man’s involvement with grandchildren, says
Grandfathers and grandmothers can have very different personal and
social starting points .
. . . . “So
although the latter spend more time with grandchildren than the
former, the difference in participation shrinks steadily after 60.
Past 70, the grandfather usually takes the lead.”