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This book is the first in-depth exploration of grandparents’ relationships with adult children and grandchildren in divorced families. It asks what part grandparents might play in public policy and whether measures should be taken to support their grandparenting role. Do they have a special place in family life that ought to be recognised in law?

This ground-breaking book is intended for a wide readership. Grandparents and parents in divorced families will identify with many of the thoughts, feelings and experiences reflected here. Academics in social science and law departments will encounter new thinking about the nature of the grandchild-grandparent relationship. Policy makers will find out more about recent policy initiatives and their strengths and limitations.

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Despite the prominence of poverty in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, and other sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ2S+) in Canada, studies that centre the material conditions of these groups as sites of inquiry remain scant. Accordingly, in this paper we present an intersectional narrative review of the limited Canadian literature on LGBTQ2S+ poverty. We examine 39 studies, published between 2000 and 2018, that report Canadian data on poverty in LGBTQ2S+ youth, older adults, racial minorities and Indigenous groups. We highlight intersectional differences reflected across these axes of social location, and consider research, policy and practice implications of our analysis.

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This chapter discusses the minority of cases in our study in which the grandchild-grandparent relationship is seriously disrupted after parental divorce. It notes that such cases can be seen as lying at the extreme end of the third continuum. It shows the extent to which grandparents took sides after the break-up, and assumed attitudes and behaviour reflecting what they saw as the ‘rights and wrongs’ of their divorced child’s situation. It also draws on interviews with members of the Grandparents’ Association, the leading support and pressure group for grandparents. It turns first to the grandparents in the Cardiff study who could be described as ‘excluded’.

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This chapter notes that this study discovered grandparents, parents, and children often viewed grandparenting from very different perspectives. It observes that the role is extraordinarily diverse and the extent of that diversity in a sample of forty-four families is surprising. It notes that when it considered the effects of divorce on the grandparent-grandchild relationship, it discovered that grandparents’ approaches and attitudes to grandparenting usually survived the impact of divorce. It concludes that the evidence of continuities in grandparents’ pre- and post-divorce behaviour is more compelling than the evidence of change as the result of family break-up. It notes however, that maternal grandparents often experienced an intensification of their childcare role and some paternal grandparents discovered that contact after divorce was more difficult or, in some cases, no longer possible.

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This chapter aims to provide a description of the research and explain why it is important to discover more about grandparents’ roles in divorced families. It describes this book, which tells about grandparents whose sons or daughters have divorced. It discusses the findings of a two-year interdisciplinary research study at Cardiff University. It notes that the project was supported by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation and the research was completed in May 2001. It sets out to explore family members’ perceptions of the impact of divorce on grandparenting. It notes that the study is designed to provide a tri-generational perspective and information is gathered from interviews with parents, children, and maternal and paternal grandparents.

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This chapter argues that research has progressed imperfectly but has now reached a stage in its development when it is important to ask new questions. It explains that these must go beyond the establishment of correlations between grandparent characteristics (age, gender, distance from grandchild’s home, and so forth) and begin to look at the causes and effects of grandparenting behaviour. It establishes from the outset what is known about grandparents and grandparenting.

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This chapter asks ‘what importance do grandchildren attach to their relationship with their grandparents and how might these relationships be affected by divorce?’; and ‘is there evidence of continuity in the grandparent-grandchild relationship in divorced families as well as evidence of change as the result of family break-up’? It suggests the findings about the effects of parental divorce on the emotional bond between grandchildren and grandparents need to be accepted with some important reservations. It discovers that grandparents who were reluctant to get involved with their grandchildren before the divorce did not become more enthusiastic about grandparenting when the parents separated. It notes that the nature of the grandparent-grandchild relationship before the break-up of the family is, on this evidence, an important predictor of the post-divorce relationship.

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This chapter focuses on grandchildren who have regular face-to-face contact with grandparents and the importance they and their grandparents attach to the grandparent-grandchild relationship. It notes that the interviews seek to discover what happens when grandparents and grandchildren spend time together. It suggests that it is important in accounting for grandparenting diversity to discover whether grandparents’ main priorities are their adult children or their grandchildren — in other words, where they might be positioned on the adult-centred/child-centred continuum. It also notes that grandparents’ personal styles and their skills in relating to children are determinants of the quality of their relationships with grandchildren and ‘fun-seekers’ are invariably the most popular grandparents.

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This chapter considers the issues of child discipline and favouritism and ‘the rules’ that apply to the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. It asks: 1) does the ‘norm of non-interference’ mean that grandparents should hesitate to discipline their grandchildren? 2) do grandparents often ‘spoil’ grandchildren, and do parents object to the grandparents’ indulgence and lax discipline? 3) are there rules about reprimanding grandchildren when a parent is present? 4) are grandparents who have been asked to provide regular childcare given free rein to discipline their grandchildren as if they were their own children? 5) do parents feel resentful when they learn that their ex-spouse’s parents have reprimanded their child for bad behaviour?

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This chapter observes that once parents separate, grandparents on the mother’s side of the family often play a more significant role in supporting their daughter and caring for grandchildren, and maternal grandmothers often have a more influential role than their husbands, the maternal grandfathers. It notes that other research has concluded that both maternal and paternal grandmothers’ relationships with their grandchildren are different in quality from those of their husbands who are often less involved in childcare. It further notes that some grandparents in this study claimed that they conducted their grandparenting as ‘a couple’ or a ‘grandparenting unit’. It observes that these factors have led to a conception of a ‘grandparenting hierarchy’ in which grandmothers are ranked more highly than grandfathers and maternal grandparents take priority over paternal grandparents.

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