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How much of a burden is childcare on 21st Century grandparents?

Katie Tyler

22nd September 2022

Increasingly grandparents are being being drafted in to help with childcare. I am personally part of this cohort! Recent research suggests that 20% of grandparents find non-custodial childcare burdensome.

Recently published research, by Olga Grünwald, Marleen Damman and Kène Henkens, collected data from 3,429 Danish grandparents during 2015 and 2018. The data suggests that grandparents are more likely to feel as if childcare is a burden if they are themselves in employment, feel they are in poor health, have to look after under-5s or if they themselves have attended higher education.

Grünwald, Damman and Henkens suggest previous research has tended to place an emphasis on grandparents' involvement as having a positive impact and alternative research is ‘scarce’. Their findings would suggest that not only is childcare a burden, but it can also feel like an obligation. In addition, childcare predominately falls to the grandmother, which may compound existing responsibilities.

This research is a fairly lengthy read, but the abstract is accessible to most students and the whole article would be a useful tool to stretch and challenge students. Some great links to Marxism, the reserve army of labour, family, feminism, methods (quantitative data), reliability, child rearing, culture and identity (age), operationalisation, gender roles and much more! I am sure to have missed some other sociological links! Overall, this is some useful research to discuss and debate. It raises questions such as: is this research representative of those families who live in a traditional extended family? Could the real figure be higher? Some grandparents might have felt guilty about admitting that they found childcare burdensome. Can a Danish study be generalised to other countries? The full paper can be read here

Katie Tyler

Katie is an experienced Sociology teacher and examiner.

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