Ageing and Society

Inter-generational role investments of great-grandparents: consequences for psychological well-being

a1 Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, USA.

Article author query
drew l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
silverstein m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Identity theory suggests that individuals who perceive their family roles as salient and feel competent in their performance have greater psychological well-being than others. This paper assesses the ways in which aspects of parent, grandparent and great-grandparent role investments affect self-esteem, levels of depression and affect-balance. The 188 respondents with an average age of 73 years were participants in the University of Southern California Longitudinal Study of Generations and occupied all three roles at the time of measurement. They self-assessed quality of performance, importance to one's identity and satisfaction in their family roles. Overall, levels of role investment declined consistently with greater lineage distance from parent to great-grandparent. Latent correlations showed that parent role investment was most highly associated with well-being, followed by investment in grandparent and great-grandparent roles. Structural equation modelling, however, revealed no unique effects on well-being for any of the three roles (as a result of high inter-correlations). All three role structures formed a single meta-construct that was positively related to psychological well-being. It is concluded that the strength and consequences of inter-generational role investments were hierarchically structured by relational proximity, but also manifested in a single integrated family identity, which suggests that there are two competing and complementary views of family role structures in later life.

(Published Online January 28 2004)
(Accepted July 30 2003)

Key Words: great-grandparents; well-being; inter-generational relationships.

c1 Linda Drew, Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, 3715 McClintock Avenue #218, Los Angeles, California 90089, United States of America. e-mail: