chapter  6
24 Pages

Por trait of Amer i can Grand par ent Fam i lies

While the style and amount of grandparent involvement with grandchildren varies considerably along a number of key demographic and structural lines, grandparenthood nevertheless continues to be a widespread and a hopeful aspira - tion for the majority of adults in the United States as they age. Survey respondents in one nationally representative sample report having increased their time with family; roughly one quarter of surveyed adults 65 years and older specifically mention time with grandchildren as one of the primary benefits of growing older (Taylor, Morin, Parker, Cohn, and Wang, 2009). However, grandparenting has changed significantly in the past century, so much so that contemporary grandparent relationships bear only a partial resem - blance to the intergenerational connections of the past (Uhlenberg, 2004). In the latter half of the 20th century, widespread and relatively rapid demographic changes in the United States began to reshape the contours of grandparenting. Decreases in family size, longer lifespans, falling birthrates, increases in non - marital births, high divorce rates and changing immigration rates and patterns have produced considerable variation in the experience and practice of grand - parenthood (Bengtson, 2001; Casper and Bianchi, 2002). Longer lifespans created more dynamic relationships over time: grandparent involvement changes significantly over the life course, from caring for infants to serving as a mentor for older grandchildren. Consequently, contemporary grandparent-grandchild relationships, and the highly varied social, economic, familial, and cultural contexts in which they are built, expressed, and practiced, have become more complex, diverse, and multifaceted. Given the projected increase in the elderly population in the decades to come, intergenerational relationships will likely become even more salient among families (Cherlin, 2010).