Divorce in Switzerland does not affect the importance of grandparents

Ties between grandchildren and grandparents resist when parents separate. Relationships are stronger on the maternal side, but this imbalance is also found in united families and is not accentuated by divorce, according to researchers at the University of Geneva.


Their study "Les relations entre adolescents et grands-parents en Suisse: separation conjugale et équilibre entre les lignées" (Relations between adolescents and grandparents in Switzerland: parental separation and lineage balance) has recently been published in the INED journal Population.

Alexandre Pillonel, Cornelia Hummel and Ivan De Carlo worked from the results of a survey conducted in Switzerland in 2004 with 685 adolescents aged 12 to 16 years who were questioned on their relationships with their grandparents. They filled out a questionnaire on each grandparent. The researchers collected 1,353 valid questionnaires.
The parents of around one in five of the adolescents (20.5%) were separated. The impact of that event seems mixed. Respondents whose parents are divorced see their grandparents more regularly than the others but speak less often on the phone with them. Fewer say that their relationship with them is "very important" (41.3% versus 54.9% of children whose parents are together), but their assessments of grandparents’ psychological or financial support and availability are very similar to those of the other adolescents.

Adolescents in all families report more frequent contact with mother’s parents: 36.8% of children of married couples report seeing their maternal grandparents once a week or more, as against 28.6% for the paternal side. The gap between the two family branches remains the same after divorce (39.7% versus 31.9%). Separation may even work to balance the branches: children whose parents are divorced do not differentiate between the lineages when measuring the emotional quality of relationships with their grandparents.

The study also suggests a neutralization effect: children of separated parents have twice as much face-to-face contact with their paternal grandmother while seeing their maternal one just as often as they otherwise would.


Source: Alexandre Pillonel, Cornelia Hummel, Ivan De Carlo, 2013, Relationships between Adolescents and Grandparents in Switzerland: Conjugal Separation and Lineage Effects, Ined, Population, 68 (4)

Contact: Alexandre Pillonel

Online: April 2014