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In Tough Times, Kids May Find Solace With Grandparents

Benefits extend to youths' behavior as family situations change, study finds

SATURDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- Grandparents might be known for spoiling grandchildren, but a new study says they might also be helping the kids improve their social skills and behavior.

Spending time with grandma and grandpa especially appears to help children from single-parent, divorced/separated or stepfamily households, according to the report, published in the February Journal of Family Psychology.

"Grandparents are a positive force for all families but play a significant role in families undergoing difficulties," the study's lead author, Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said in an American Psychological Association news release. "They can reduce the negative influence of parents separating and be a resource for children who are going through these family changes."

In interviewing 11- to 16-year olds from England and Wales, Attar-Schwartz and her team found that the more conversations the youths had with a grandparent, including asking for advice or even money, the better they got along with their peers and the fewer problems they had, such as hyperactivity and disruptive behavior.

"This was found across all three family structures," she said. "But adolescents in single-parent households and stepfamilies benefited the most. The effect of their grandparents' involvement was stronger compared to children from two biological parent families."

The study did not look at children who lived solely with their grandparents, though.

The findings have great implications for people in the United States, the authors said, because American grandparents are increasingly sharing living space with their grandchildren. A 2004 U.S. Census Bureau survey found that more than 5 million households include a grandparent and a grandchild under 18, up 30 percent since 1990, according to background information in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about raising safe and healthy children.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Feb. 23, 2009

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