Most Americans have had close bonds with their grandparents, a recent YouGov survey finds. At least half of adults are able to recall memories of spending holidays with their grandparents, learning about family history from them, or being exposed to cultural traditions by them. Many adults say their grandparents have been very influential in their lives, and a similar share of grandparents say the same about their grandchildren.
Closeness is key
Most Americans (69%) believe it's very important for grandparents and their grandchildren to have a close relationship with one another. Women (75%), Black Americans (78%), people who say religion is very important (83%), and people 65 or older (84%) are especially likely to view grandparent-grandchild closeness as very important.
A large majority of Americans say their grandparents have been either very (39%) or somewhat (33%) influential in their lives. A similar share of grandparents say that in their lives their grandchildren have been very (43%) or somewhat (29%) influential. Grandmothers (52%) are more likely than grandfathers (30%) to say their grandchildren have been very influential. Among grandparents whose own grandparents have been very influential in their lives, 60% also say their grandchildren have been very influential.
A matrilineal advantage
While about half of Americans (48%) say they have met all four of their grandparents — the parents of both their mother and father — the strength of these bonds varies. Consistent with past research, our results suggest a “matrilineal advantage,” meaning that Americans tend to rate relationships with their mother’s side of the family more favorably than their father's. This is likely in part a result of Americans being less likely to have a close relationship with their fathers, and that women are more often the parents most responsible for caregiving and maintaining family closeness. Women having longer life expectancies and having children at younger ages could also play a role, as this gives grandchildren more time to get to know female family members.
Our survey shows that Americans are significantly more likely to say they are very close to their mother than to their father. And feelings of closeness extend to their mother's side of the family. When it comes to grandparents, people are most likely to say they have a close relationship with their mother's mother, and least likely to say they have a close relationship with their father's father. The same pattern is true for great-grandparents: Americans are most likely to say they're very close with their mother's mother's mother.
What's in a name?
Grandchildren often call their grandparents by unique names and terms of endearment. For grandmothers of American adults, the most common nickname is Grandma, with 35% referring to their maternal grandmother this way and 31% referring to their paternal grandmother this way. Grandmother and Granny are the next most popular, with each being used by around one in 10.
There is less consensus when it comes to nicknames for grandfathers. Americans are most likely to say they've referred to their grandfather as Grandpa: 29% use this name for their maternal grandfather and 23% do for their paternal grandfather. Grandfather and Grampa come in second and third place, but are much less popular, with about one in 10 referring to each grandfather using each of those names.
The vast majority of Americans have been told that they physically resemble a family member, with the largest share being told they resemble a parent. Most women (58%) have been told they physically resemble their mother, while 45% of men have been told they resemble their father. Women are as likely as men to have been told they resemble their fathers (45%), but men are far less likely than women to have been told they look like their mothers (32%). Much smaller shares of men and women have been told they physically resemble their grandparents.
Americans are less likely to have been told that their personality resembles that of a family member, though most have at some point. Women are nearly equally as likely to have been told their personality is like that of their mother (35%) and father (33%). Men are more likely to have been told their personality resembles that of their father (37%) than that of their mother (28%). About one in 10 women say they've been told their personality resembles their maternal grandmother and a similar share says the same about their paternal grandmother; similar shares of men say the same about each of their maternal and paternal grandfathers.
The grandparent experience
Most Americans have memories of their grandparents, with 77% saying they have celebrated holidays with them and 74% saying they have been entertained by or had fun with them (74%). Many also say their grandparents have taught them things, including about family history (61%), cultural traditions (51%), skills or hobbies (50%), and religion or spirituality (48%).
Grandparents also played a role in raising many American adults by engaging in daily child-rearing tasks, including disciplining (54%) and providing regular child care (44%). Two in five Americans (40%) say they lived in the same household as one of their grandparents, and one in five (18%) say a grandparent was their primary legal guardian at some point. Men (24%) are significantly more likely than women (13%) to say a grandparent has been their primary legal guardian. One in four Americans — 23% — say they have been estranged from a grandparent.
Grandparent experiences differ by race and ethnicity. Hispanic and Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to say their grandparents taught them about religion or spirituality, or gave them life advice. They are also more likely to say a grandparent lived in their household, acted as their primary legal guardian, or provided them with financial support. White Americans are more likely to say grandparents celebrated holidays with them and entertained them or had fun with them.
Should grandparents provide child care?
Americans have mixed opinions when it comes to grandparents and caregiving. Regarding grandparents who live nearby, are not employed, and are physically and mentally capable, 41% of Americans say they should be willing to provide child care for their grandchildren on a regular basis and 40% say they do not need to be willing. Men — including men without children, fathers, and grandfathers — are significantly more likely than women — including women without children, mothers, and grandmothers — to say grandparents in this situation should be willing to provide care.
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Methodology: This poll was conducted online on May 2 - 6, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.
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