"And women still live longer than men. Although this can vary greatly, a man of 70 has a partner beside him more often than a woman of the same age".
"So while grandmothers are usually alone, a grandfather is in a marriage. Having a younger and healthy partner seems to be crucial for a man's involvement with grandchildren."
Investment for later help?
Some would undoubtedly explain this phenomenon as a reflection of the grandparents' desire to invest time with their grandchildren in order to be helped later, Knudsen observes.
"But such arguments are only consistent with certain findings," he adds. "If they were correct, widowed grandmothers would be with the grandchildren most and that's not the case."
Sociological role theory appears to provide a better explanation, he says. Grandfathers and grandmothers can have very different personal and social starting points.
"So although the latter spend more time with grandchildren than the former, the difference in participation shrinks steadily after 60. Past 70, the grandfather usually takes the lead."
It might be thought that older men still identify most with other interests, he says, and that women were accordingly better grandparents throughout their lives.
Men manage well
"In fact, however, men generally manage relatively well as grandparents. One important reason, as mentioned earlier, is that they usually still have their partner at their side."
But big differences nevertheless exist. "Many grandparents have other priorities or live a long way from the grandchildren. That naturally affects the time they spend together."
Norway is not one of the 11 countries in his study, but Knudsen says that its findings probably also apply to Norwegian conditions.
"After all, the research shows that demographic conditions have marked consequences later in life for grandparents more or less rega
|Contact: Knud Knudsen|
University of Stavanger