Step and Biological Grandparenthood in the United States

Jenjira Yahirun, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Sung S. Park, University of California, Los Angeles

American families have experienced dramatic change over the course of the twentieth century. Increased life expectancy provides greater potential for grandparents and grandchildren to have overlapping lives and grandparents often act as the family safety net, providing support during tough times. Yet grandparents’ availability to help younger generations may be threatened by increasing family complexity. Remarriage and repartnering through cohabitation have increased the availability of step family and cohabiting- or quasi-stepfamily relationships. Although a growing body of research examines these relationships in young families, scholars have paid little attention to complexity in three-generation relationships. This study provides new information about the demography of step grandparenthood and how it compares to biological grandparenthood. Using HRS and PSID data, we provide contemporary estimates of step grandparenthood across different socioeconomic and race-ethnic groups and an examination of the transition to step grandparenthood for men and women in the United States.

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Presented in Session 42: Families in Later Life