Nurturant Grandfathering: Investment Work

HYG-5807
Family and Consumer Sciences
Date: 
08/31/2021
James S. Bates, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Field Specialist-Family Wellness, Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences

A survey of grandfathers found that nearly 79%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 that many are actively working to ensure that their grandchildren have a bright future. Investment work refers to the time, energy, and financial resources invested in a grandchild’s future. Unlike the other dimensions of generative grandfathering, some investment work may not necessarily be in-person, grandfather-grandchild activities. Rather, they may be supportive activities that grandfathers do on their own to address their grandchild’s needs for and interests in educational, occupational, financial, and material success (Bates and Goodsell 2013). 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. Grandfather listening to granddaughter while sitting in easy chair and holding a calculator.

Investment work is an important dimension of grandfatherwork, which is “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, 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 proposed the term generativity in 1950 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 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 his influence on a 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 now and in the future, he experiences greater satisfaction knowing that he is fulfilling his role in the family. Research shows that grandfathers who engaged in investment work also reported increased feelings of happiness, hopefulness about the future, and life enjoyment. They also reported 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.
  • Connect grandchildren 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.

Note: Data mentioned in this document are from the author’s research project titled “Grandfather Involvement and Health Survey.” This is the first time these data have been published.

This fact sheet is part of the Nurturant Grandfathering series, including: Let's Get Involved (HYG-5800), Lineage Work (HYG-5801), Mentoring Work (HYG-5802), Spiritual Work (HYG-5803), Character Work (HYG-5804), Recreation Work (HYG-5805), Family Identity Work (HYG-5806), and Investment Work (HYG-5807).

References

Bates, James. 2009. “Generative grandfathering: A conceptual framework for nurturing grandchildren.” Marriage & Family Review, 45, 331-352.

Bates, James, and Todd Goodsell. 2013. “Male kin relationships: Grandpas, grandsons, and generativity.” Marriage & Family Review, 49, 26-50.

Erikson, Erik H. 1950. Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Erikson, Erik H. 1982. The life cycle completed. New York: Norton.