Grandparents and Extended Kin

Harald A. Euler

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Family Psychology

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195396690
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Grandparents and Extended Kin

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  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology



The four categories of grandparents differ in their investment in grandchildren, with the maternal grandmother investing the most and taking an outstanding position, followed usually by the maternal grandfather, the paternal grandmother, and the paternal grandfather. This discriminative grandparenting is manifest in many investment proxies, like contact and care, expressions of affection, grandchild survival, and others. The recurrent rank order of the four grandparent categories is best explained by two basic reproductively relevant variables: relationship uncertainty and sex-specific reproductive strategy. The expression of these variables is moderated by several conditions, among others residential proximity, marital status of grandparent, family size, type of joint activity, age of child, and grandparent−grandchild similarity. In natural fertility populations, the availability of the maternal grandmother increases chances for child survival. In industrialized countries, the positive impact of grandparental support is still evident in high-risk family conditions under circumstances of duress.

Keywords: Grandparental care; grandparental investment; grandparental solicitude; relationship uncertainty; reproductive strategy; grandmother hypothesis; sex-chromosome relatedness; animal grandparenting; matrilineal bias; sex-biased investment

Article.  20250 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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