Sustaining Families in the 21st Century: The Role of Grandparents
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As the world's population ages there is a growing interest in the lives of older people. Older people may be parents, grandparents, members of extended families neighbourhoods and countries. This paper will focus on one particular role, that of being a grandparent and its role in sustaining families, including those where the grandchild has a disability. In the past grandparents were integral to the success of societies. Often respected and revered. Grandfathers, in particular held much of the power and control within families and were responsible for the distribution of the land and property amongst their kin. Grandmothers were seen as the custodians of the family rituals and the development of kinship relationships. In the 21st century, grandparents do not have the same status or position they once had but many contribute to sustaining the family. This may be by way of instrumental support such as the provision of housing, clothing child-care, school fees and in some cases assuming the full time caring role of the grandchild. Others may assume a more symbolic role, providing an environment which is stable, where the child feels safe and unconditionally loved and where the grandparent is seen as a role model, responsible for the transmission of wisdom and knowledge including the families history and traditions. This paper adds to the dearth of literature in this area by presenting a comprehensive picture of the contribution (both past and present) grandparents make in sustaining families.
The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability
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