Stepgrandparent-Stepgrandchild Relationships: Is There a “Grand Step-Gap” in Emotional Closeness and Contact?

Anja Steinbach , University of Duisburg-Essen
Merril Silverstein, Syracuse University

High divorce and remarriage rates have expanded nontraditional family forms, as some family members leave and others join during the process of repartnering. A less explored consequence of the growth in step-families is the proliferation of step-grandparenthood. This paper focused on emotional closeness and frequency of contact between step-grandparents and their step-grandchildren in childhood and adulthood. Based on 4,992 biological grandparents and step-grandparents participating in the 2014 wave of the German Ageing Survey, we compared 7,710 biological grandparent-grandchild relations to 465 stepgrandparent-stepgrandchild relations. Step-relations were differentiated by whether repartnering occurred in the grandparent or parent generation. Hierarchical linear regression results provided support for the hypothesis that step-grandparents feel less emotionally close to their step-grandchildren than biological grandparents feel to their biological grandchildren. In contrast, the observed lower frequency of contact in stepgrandparent-stepgrandchild relations was mostly explained by their weaker emotional ties.

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 Presented in Session 50. Ageing and Intergenerational Relations