Grandchild Care and Marital Quality in Later Life

TitleGrandchild Care and Marital Quality in Later Life
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsWang, S
Academic DepartmentPhilosophy
Number of Pages185
UniversityUniversity of Massachusetts
Thesis TypeDissertation
KeywordsCaregiving, Family Roles/Relationships, Grandparents, Marriage

Grandparents providing any type of care to their grandchildren are typically married. Having a good marital quality has great implications to older adults’ health and longevity; however, our knowledge regarding how marital quality could be shaped by providing grandchild care is limited. Guided by the Stress Process Model and Role Theory (i.e. role strain perspective, role enhancement perspective and gender roles), this dissertation examined the associations between grandparents’ marital quality and three aspects of grandchild care: types of care, transitions in care, and division of care between spouses. Each aspect was examined in one of the three studies that composed this dissertation. In addition, gender differences in the impacts of providing grandchild care on grandparents’ marital quality was investigated in each study.

Using data of 7,275 married grandparents aged 40 and over from the 2008, 2010 and 2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, multiple-imputation estimate logistic and linear regression models were conducted to predict marital quality (i.e., perceived closeness with spouse, perceived spousal support, perceived spousal strain).

Providing high-intensity grandchild care (i.e. primary, co-parenting and high levels of babysitting) was associated with grandparents’ lower marital quality. The negative consequences of high-intensity care were established both for grandparents who transitioned into high levels of care, and those who provided care on an ongoing basis. The negative effect of providing high-intensity care on marital quality was more pronounced among women than among men. In contrast, the positive effect of discontinuing high-intensity care on marital quality is more pronounced among men than among women. Regarding division of care, equal sharing between spouses was associated with grandparents’ higher marital quality than having a spouse who provided less care, and the effect was same among men and women. Findings of this dissertation aligned with the Stress Process Model and the role strain perspective.

Support groups may help raise awareness among grandparents that providing grandchild care may affect their marital quality, and create marital relationship-specific activities. Health professionals and counselors should be aware that grandparents who provide intensive care to their grandchildren or care that is uneven between spouses could be at higher risk for marital distress.

Citation Key9731