Examining The Role Of Grandparents In The Lives Of Their Grandchildren

No end of attention is paid to the impact big-name athletes and screen stars have on kids. Under the pop-cultural radar, though, grandparents often exert a far more substantial influence. A Harris Interactive YouthQuery survey, analyzed in the research firm’s Trends & Tudes newsletter, offers lots of detail on the ways 8-18-year-olds interact with and think about their grandparents.

One effect of the increase in longevity is that most kids (91 percent) have at least one living grandparent. Among those who do so, 13 percent have one or more grandparents living in their own home. Thirty percent have grandparents who live in the same town or city. For 31 percent, the grandparents’ town is just a short car ride away. Given such proximity, it’s no surprise that kids see their grandparents often: 17 percent see one (or more) every day, and one-fourth do so at least once every couple of weeks. Even when not meeting face to face, the generations keep in touch: 85 percent of grandchildren talk on the phone with a grandparent at least once a month; 16 percent exchange e-mail and 14 percent receive ordinary mail at least that often. What do kids discuss with their grandparents? School is the most common topic (cited by 72 percent), followed by “fun activities that they are looking forward to” (63 percent) and “something they saw on television” (55 percent). Among other popular topics: “morals or values” (40 percent), “career plans” (38 percent), “peer relationships” (35 percent) and “problems/issues they are dealing with” (31 percent). Kids also get a chance to vent about “issues with their parents” (31 percent). Of course, grandkids don’t just talk with the old folks: 61 percent said they watch TV together; 46 percent play games; 45 percent went to a religious service together at least once in the past year; 33 percent have gone to a movie, 20 percent to a sports event and 16 percent to the library.

All of this contact makes an impression on the kids. Sixty-four percent have a grandparent they “feel close to”; 20 percent categorized one or more of their grandparents as a “role model”; 47 percent “see the role of grandparents in their lives as very or extremely important.” It doesn’t hurt, naturally, that grandparents fork over lots of cash to their grandchildren. “The median amount is $100 per year,” with a mere 7 percent of grandchildren receiving no money from a grandparent. Sixty-one percent of grandparents have bought clothes for their grandchildren in the past year. Other purchase categories include snacks/fast food (59 percent), books (38 percent), toys or other noncomputerized games (33 percent) and videos/DVDs (32 percent).