Grandparents might be known for spoiling grandchildren, but a new study says they might also be helping the kids improve their social skills and behavior.

Spending time with grandma and grandpa especially appears to help children from single-parent, divorced/separated or stepfamily households, according to the report, published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Study Findings

Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz, PhD, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and her team interviewed 11- to 16-year olds from England and Wales. They found that the more conversations the youths had with a grandparent, including asking for advice or even money, the better they got along with their peers and the fewer problems they had, such as hyperactivity and disruptive behavior.

"This was found across all three family structures," Dr. Attar-Schwartz said. "But adolescents in single-parent households and stepfamilies benefited the most. The effect of their grandparents' involvement was stronger compared to children from two biological parent families."

The study did not look at children who lived solely with their grandparents, though.


"Grandparents are a positive force for all families but play a significant role in families undergoing difficulties," said Dr. Attar-Schwartz, the study's lead author.

"They can reduce the negative influence of parents separating and be a resource for children who are going through these family changes," she said.

The findings have great implications for people in the United States, the authors said, because American grandparents are increasingly sharing living space with their grandchildren. A 2004 US Census Bureau survey found that more than 5 million households include a grandparent and a grandchild under 18, up 30% since 1990.

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