Nurturant Grandfathering: Investment Work

Family and Consumer Sciences
James S. Bates, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Family Wellness, Ohio State University Extension

A recent survey of grandfathers found that nearly 79 percent reported that they fulfill the role of investor in their grandchild's future. This suggests that not only are grandfathers interested in their grandchildren's futures, but many are actively working to ensure a bright future for their grandchildren. Investment work refers to the time, energy, and financial resources invested in a grandchild's future. Unlike the other dimensions of generative grandfathering, investment work actions may not necessarily be in-person, grandfather-grandchild activities. Rather, according to Bates and Goodsell (2013), they may be supportive activities that grandfathers do on their own to address their grandchildren's needs for and interests in educational, occupational, financial, and material success. Grandfathers empower their grandchildren through various forms of assistance and support. For instance, grandfathers may put aside money so grandchildren can afford to attend college, or they may link grandchildren to occupational networks to help them gain employment. Investment work continues to be realized through memories, personal legacies, and inheritances even after the grandfather has passed away.

Investment work is an important dimension of grandfatherwork. Grandfatherwork "is defined as the effort, energy, time, and resources grandfathers put forth to care for, serve, meet the developmental needs of, and maintain relationships with their descendants" (Bates, 2009, p. 338). Simply being a grandfather does not take much effort. However, grandfathering is more than being a passive observer; it implies action and engagement. It means that a grandfather makes a conscious commitment to be present and participate actively in his grandchildren's lives. It also means that a grandfather will take a personal interest in helping his grandchildren reach their potential.

Grandfatherwork is grounded in the human developmental stage of generativity. Life span theorist Erik Erikson (1950) proposed the term generativity, which refers to the motivation to teach, establish, contribute to, and care for subsequent generations. Grandfatherwork is one way aging men can practice generativity. By teaching, guiding, and nurturing grandchildren in and through various activities, grandfathers are fulfilling their own developmental need to be generative. If aging men are not actively engaged in generative activities, they are not working toward their developmental potential and may become stagnate and self-absorbed (Erikson, 1982).

Benefits to Grandchildren

A grandfather's involvement in investment work can be influential on his grandchild's personal growth, values, and beliefs. Research indicates, even after accounting for the amount of contact, there is a moderately strong tie between doing investment work and a grandfather's influence on his grandchild's family identity, family ideals and values, work ethic, beliefs about education, and success in the future. This suggests that by working to help his grandchild prepare for the future, a grandfather exerts a meaningful impact on many areas of his grandchild's personal development.

Benefits to Grandfathers

Research on grandfathers who participate in investment work has found that greater involvement is strongly related to enhanced grandfather-grandchild emotional closeness as well as to higher levels of relationship satisfaction. This means that participation in investment work strengthens a grandfather's personal connection with his grandchild and makes their relationship more meaningful and satisfying. Investment work is also related to a man's satisfaction as a financial provider for and investor in his grandchild. As he helps his grandchild prepare to be successful in the future, he experiences greater satisfaction knowing that he is doing his part in the family. Research has also found that grandfathers who report doing investment work also report increased feelings of happiness, hopefulness about the future, and life enjoyment. Further, grandfathers engaged in investment work report fewer feelings of sadness, failure, and loneliness.

Activities for Grandfathers to Do for Their Grandchildren

  • Financially assist grandchildren according to values held about money and money management.
  • Assist with paying for grandchildren's education or vocational training.
  • Put grandchildren in touch with people who can help them get jobs.
  • Save money for grandchildren's futures, and give money to grandchildren on special occasions.
  • Support laws that ensure a bright future for grandchildren.


Bates, J. S. (2009). Generative grandfathering: A conceptual framework for nurturing grandchildren. Marriage & Family Review, 45, 331-352.

Bates, J. S., & Goodsell, T. L. (2013). Male kin relationships: Grandpas, grandsons, and generativity. Marriage & Family Review, 49, 26-50.

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Erikson, E. H. (1982). The life cycle completed. New York: Norton.

Data mentioned herein are from James S. Bates and Alan C. Taylor's research project, Grandfather Involvement and Health Survey. This is the first time these data have been published.