Research Mentor and Department
Brian Carpenter, Psychology
The intergenerational stake hypothesis posits that older people tend to feel more positively about relationships with younger people in their family because they have a greater perceived “stake” in the relationship. The purpose of the current study was to explore this hypothesis in the context of grandparent-grandchild relationships. Pairs of grandparents and grandchildren completed a brief online survey that asked questions about relational closeness, shared activities, and relationship quality. Proxy reports were also gathered in which participants responded from the perspective of their relational partner. On average, grandparents reported significantly more favorable self-reports of emotional closeness than their grandchildren, t(78) = 4.71, p < .001, d = .61. However, proxy reports revealed that grandparents were actually quite accurate at predicting their grandchildren’s relational closeness responses, t(77) = .44, p > .05. Moreover, difference score calculations identified a portion of the dyad sample that appeared to refute the hypothesis in their relational closeness responses.
Results from this study support the intergenerational stake hypothesis in the grandchild/grandparent relationship, at least in terms of perceived emotional closeness. However, the degree to which grandparents perceive their grandchildren’s attitudes may deviate considerably in ways that are not yet fully accounted for by the generational stake hypothesis.