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Insights and Spending Habits of Modern Grandparents

This report highlights the results of two grandparenting studies conducted in 2011: in-depth interviews (IDIs) with grandparents age 50+ (including those who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren); and a national telephone survey of grandparents age 50+ (including special modules on grandparenting in multicultural or multiethnic families and grandparents providing daycare services). This report provides a snap shot of the experiences, triumphs and challenges of grandparents age 50+ as described by in-depth interview of participants, by summarizing the current research on grandparents age 50+, including topics such as grandparents raising grandchildren; grandparent-grandchild communication tools; frequency & quality of grandparent-grandchild visits; how grandparents support grandchild rearing; spending and gifting trends among grandparents; and issues that affect grandparent-grandchild relations.

Key findings include:

  • The vast majority of grandparents in the quantitative study said they play a very (59%) or somewhat (30%) important role in the lives of their grandchildren.
  • About seven in ten (69%) grandparents live within 50 miles of their closest grandchildren. Another 10% indicated that they have to travel over 200 miles to see their closest grandchildren. A little over four in ten (43%) grandparents have to travel over 200 miles to see their grandchildren who live furthest away from them.
  • Grandparents who said they did not see their grandchildren enough most often cited distance (67%) as a reason why; followed by the grandchildren’s busy schedules (64%).
  • The most frequently mentioned methods of communicating with grandchildren were either face-to-face or telephone. In the telephone survey, nearly six in ten grandparents said they speak with their grandchildren at least once a week (58%).
  • Grandparents see their role as shapers of another generation. Specifically, grandparents mentioned the importance of passing on values and helping their grandchildren develop morally and spiritually.
  • The majority of grandparents in the telephone survey indicated that they have discussed morals and values (78%) and religion or spirituality (66%) with at least one of their grandchildren. As a corollary, nearly half (47%) indicated that they have attended religious services with their grandchildren in the past six months.


Alan Newman Research (ANR) conducted 143 30-minute in-depth telephone interviews (IDIs) with grandparents who had participated in the February 2011 AARP Integrated Tracking Survey (ITS), grandparenting module and indicated a willingness to be re-contacted. The IDIs were conducted in August 2011. The base IDI sample was a construct from two sources: (1) grandparents who reported in the February 2011 ITS survey that they were not providing care for their grandchildren and (2) grandparents who reported that they were either the primary caregiver1 or assist with providing day-to- day care for at least one grandchild. Interviewees were randomly selected from each subgroup to ensure adequate representation from all segments. This report also includes an analysis of data obtained from telephone interviews with 1904 grandparents aged 50 and older drawn at random from the United States. This sample was then boosted to obtain additional interviews with African Americans and Hispanics aged 50 and older who were also grandparents. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by Woelfel Research, Inc. from August 25 to October 6, 2011. For more information on this survey, please contact Cheryl Lampkin at 202-434-6172.

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