Date of Award

9-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Dr. Carolyn J. Rosenthal

Abstract

Ă…gainst the backup of social and demographic transformations, including increasing longevity and changing family relationships, this dissertation combines quantitative and qualitative methods to examine contemporary grandparent-grandchild ties in Canada. Beginning with an analysis of grandparenthood at the population level, this research analyzes the social and demographic contours of grandparenthood, establishing the prevalence of grandparenthood, adults with living grandparents, step-ties, multi-generational households and grandparents raising their grandchildren, as well as the supply of grandchildren and the intersection of family and work roles with grandparenthood. And, given that American data are often used to represent the Canadian situation, the dissertation provides a comparative analysis between the two countries. The demographic analysis revealed high percentages of grandparent-adult grandchild relationships in the population. this finding formed the foundation for the micro-level analysis on which the dissertation is also based - an original qualitative study involving older grandparents and adult grandchildren (n=37). The overall aim of this research was to explore grandparent-adult grandchild relationships from the perspectives of both generations in order to understand the significance of the ties and these family roles, as well as how they are negotiated over time and within the context of contemporary and social life. The data reveald that the ties have instrumental, symbolic, existential and material significance, that adult relationships are qualitatively different and more complex compared to young grand relationships and that the broader social context is very consequential to how these family ties and roles are negotiated. Taken together, the qualitative and quantitative findings challenge commonly held assumptions about who and what constitutes 'the family' and shed scholarly light on choice and obligation as they arise in contemporary family life.

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