Fertility and childcare: the role of grandparents

Fleur Thomese, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Aart C. Liefbroer, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

This paper explores the involvement of grandparents in the care for young children and its effects on subsequent child births three years later in the Netherlands’ Kinship Panel Study, a cohort of 1,484 Dutch men and women aged 18-49. Three theoretical explanations are tested. Rational choice explanations focus on the needs and opportunities of the parents and grandparents; norm-based explanations put forward the preference of the parents for family child care, and evolutionary theory focuses on the effectiveness of grandparental investments in enhancing fitness. Findings show that needs and opportunities inform the involvement of grandparents. The extent of involvement however depends on the parents’ preferences for care from relatives, and there is a clear maternal tilt as evolutionary theory predicts. Involvement of both maternal and paternal grandparents in turn increases the likelihood of additional childbirths. The most likely explanation for this effect is the evolutionary kin influence hypothesis.

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Presented in Session 14: Ageing and intergenerational relationships