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Maximiliane Szinovacz (Department of Sociology, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 December 1996



This study, based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households, confirms normative preference for nuclear households across all cohorts and racial/ethnic groups throughout this century. However, a noteworthy minority (about 30%) did live with grandparents at some time during their childhood. Living with grandparents as well as having a grandparent live in one's parental household were somewhat more prevalent during the 30's and 40's, indicating that extended households may have been formed in response to the Depression and especially World War II. There also is a significant effect of nuclear family structure: living arrangements with grandparents predominate among those who did not live with both parents at some time during their childhood. The data also suggest that it is important to differentiate between grandparental living arrangements that are oriented toward the care of the grandchildren and those arrangements that imply care for the grandparent: the former arrangement predominates among Blacks, whereas the latter is more common among Whites. During the past decade there has been increased interest in extended family living arrangements and particularly in households including grandparents and/or grandchildren. This interest reflects several demographic trends during the latter part of this century, especially increases in divorce and in parental problems (drugs, AIDS) that preclude parents from taking care of their own children as well as increases in longevity and in the survival of frail elderly, many of whom come to live with their adult children. Census data offer information on the prevalence of extended family arrangements at any one point in time, but they are insufficient to estimate a person's lifetime “risk” of living with grandparents and provide only limited information on the duration of such living arrangements. Data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) include information not only on whether individuals ever lived with their grandparents but also on the type and the duration of such arrangements. Based on this data set, this article assesses trends in living arrangements with grandparents, and variations in these trends by race and childhood family structure.


Szinovacz, M. (1996), "LIVING WITH GRANDPARENTS: VARIATIONS BY COHORT, RACE, AND FAMILY STRUCTURE", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 16 No. 12, pp. 89-123.




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