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When family crisis occurs, are grandparents part of the solution or part of the problem? Both possibilities have been advanced in a spate of recent books and articles about intergenerational relations. Some authors have urged grandparents to take a more active role inn helping to solve the family's problems, while others have called for legislation to help ease the effects on grandparents of crises such as divorce. However, a national study of grandparents that we recently completed, to be published by Basic Books this September (Cherlin and Furstenberg, 1986), suggests that most grandparents are unlikely to become either the saviors of the family of the helpless victims of family disruption. Our study consisted of interviews conducted in 1983 with the grandparents of a nationally representative sample of children who had been interviewed previously in 1976 and 1981, yielding a unique, three-generational national survey. The study indicated that grandparents play a limited but important role in family dynamics. This role prevents them from becoming major forces in their grandchildren's lives, but it also provides them with ways of avoiding some of the severe shocks of family crisis.
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Cherlin, Andrew, and Frank Furstenberg. 1986. "Grandparents & Family Crisis." Generations 10 (4): 26-28.
Date Posted: 12 June 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.