How does family policy impact on grandparental care of children? A comparative study of Italy, the UK and the Netherlands

Debora J. Price, King's College London
Eloi Ribe Montserrat, King's College London
Anthea Tinker, King's College London
Rachel Stuchbury, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Giorgio Di Gessa, King's College London
Karen F. Glaser, King's College London

Our aim is to consider the family policy environments of contrasting European countries to determine the extent to which these environments support, encourage or assume grandparental care. In addressing these questions, in contrast to previous approaches, we consider that family policies cannot be considered in isolation but must be embedded both in wider policy frameworks affecting family life and in the social and cultural context of the organisation of work, family, retirement and care in each country. We look not only at the individual and social rights conferred by policies, but also at how they operate in practice across generations. We therefore conceptualise grandparenting as taking place within complex policy environments. Both parents and grandparents are living within culturally specific labour markets and families, and these may impact differently on people of different ages and generations. Using the exemplars of Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, we tabulate a range of policies in each country, critically assess the policy logics in terms of (1) intergenerational gender, family and care relations, and (2) engagement with the labour market, and then (3) integrate this analysis with a raft of indicators that measure country specific cultural and structural factors. Finally, we relate this analysis to the demography of grandparental care in each country. We find a complex set of limitations and conditions interact with cultural imperatives, values and norms. We test how gendered policy logics and care logics and structures may force, interact with and set limits to mothers’ and grandmothers’ participation in the labour force, thereby constructing and shaping intergenerational support.

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Presented in Session 14: Ageing and intergenerational relationships