Journal Article

The Role of Grandparents in Divorced Families

Gillian Douglas and Neil Ferguson

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 17, issue 1, pages 41-67
Published in print April 2003 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online April 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
The Role of Grandparents in Divorced Families

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  • Family Law
  • Marriage and the Family


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This article reports on the findings of an exploratory study of how grandparents, parents, and grandchildren view the role of grandparents in the divorced family, and what impact the divorce seems to have on that role. We analyse the findings in three ways. First, we consider the nature of the relationship between grandparents and parents, and grandparents and grandchildren, which we argue appears to be characterized by asymmetry. Second, we identify the two key norms that appear to underlie the way these relationships are operated – the norm of non‐interference and the norm of obligation. Third, we categorize the styles that different grandparents adopt, and suggest that they occupy places on three different continua – grandparent as parent, partisan supporter and adult–child focused. We argue that where any given set of grandparents is located along each of these is established before the parents' divorce, and that the divorce of itself does not fundamentally alter their approach to grandparenting. We conclude that the study suggests that grandparents' willingness to provide support to divorced parents and their children cannot be taken for granted, and that the claim that grandparents should be accorded specific legal rights by virtue of their status is not supported by the evidence obtained in this study.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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