A good relationship between grandparents and their adult grandchildren can provide a psychological boost for both generations, according to a new study.
Researchers from Boston College found this type of close-knit bond was linked to fewer symptoms of depression for both the seniors and the young adults. And the closer the emotional ties, the bigger the benefit, they found.
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In conducting the study, Sara Moorman, an assistant professor in the sociology department, and Jeffrey Stokes, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Boston College, examined survey data involving 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren collected between 1985 and 2004. The grandparents were born on average in 1917, and the grandchildren on average in 1963.
The study also showed the grandparents who provided their grandchildren with tangible support -- which included performing a household chore, giving advice, or offering some pocket money -- and received similar support from their grandchildren in return had the fewest symptoms of depression. This type of support, however, did not affect the psychological well-being of grandchildren, the researchers noted.
On the other hand, the grandparents with the most significant increase in symptoms of depression received tangible support but did not give it, the researchers pointed out. The authors suggested that grandparents who receive help but can't return the favor may feel bad or frustrated about having to depend on their grandchildren.
The study authors concluded that strengthening family bonds should go beyond the nuclear family and young children. They added that adult grandchildren who offer tangible support to their grandparents, and allow their grandparents to give them something in return could help reduce their symptoms of depression.
Moorman, who is also with the Institute on Aging at Boston College, is scheduled to present the findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, in New York City.
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.