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Graduate Defense: Donna Syme

April 19 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: How Do Grandparents Invest In Their Grandchildren?

Program: Master of Arts in Anthropology

Advisor: Dr. Kathryn Demps, Anthropology

Committee Members: Dr. Kristin Snopkowski, Anthropology and Dr. John Ziker, Anthropology


Parental Investment Theory and the Grandmother Hypothesis posit how we invest in family to enhance our inclusive fitness through tradeoffs and investment of care in children. Most research focuses on direct care methods, such as meeting physical needs of children, rather than indirect methods of care such as financial and emotional support. The roles of grandparents are important and are felt at every age level and relationship have beneficial effects including past knowledge, support, mentoring, and direct care and indirect care methods. Using semi structured interviews, I sampled 30 local seniors in four different communities who are grandparents to get a better sense of how they invest in their grandchildren. I found that there are a variety of care-themed ways that grandparents improve the wellbeing of grandchildren in mixed of circumstances. Proximity to grandchildren showed the most investment of time, direct support, and emotional support. For grandchildren living distantly, there was investment, but numbers were lower due to limited access. Circumstances of need also shape how grandparents invest in their grandchildren largely in time, financial, and direct support with increased care following changes in parental ability to invest such as divorce.