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Variations in Grandparenting


Mueller, Margaret M.; Wilhelm, Brenda; & Elder, Glen H., Jr. (2002). Variations in Grandparenting. Research on Aging, 24(3), 360-388.


Grandparents are increasingly playing a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren, though surprisingly little is known about what actually happens within a grandparent-grandchild relationship. Researchers have often employed variablecentered approaches to predict levels of contact or quality in grandparent-grandchild relationships, masking variations in patterns of experience. We use a person-centered clustering methodology to identify patterns in the attributes and behaviors of older Americans who describe their relationship with an adolescent grandchild. Data are drawn from the Iowa Youth and Families Project and the Iowa Single Parent Project. These data include indicators of face-to-face contact, authority and discipline, instrumental assistance, interpersonal support, intimacy, and shared activities. Five distinct clusters of grandparents emerge from the analysis, who we have identified as influential, supportive, passive, authority-oriented, and detached. These five types are differentiated by relevant social factors and have implications for the quality and closeness of the grandparent-grandchild relationship.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Research on Aging


Mueller, Margaret M.
Wilhelm, Brenda
Elder, Glen H., Jr.