The Five Types of Grandparents: Which One are You?

Grandparents with grandchildrenGrandparents are an important part of a family. There are many types of people who are grandparents, and there are many roles a grandparent can play.

In 1965, a study on the different types of grandparents was done in the University of Chicago. The study was done by Bernice Neugarten, a leading gerontologist at the time. This study divided grandparents into five different types, and here is how they were categorized.

1. Formal Grandparent

A formal grandparent is what most of us think of when we hear the word “grandma” or “grandpa.” They have a traditional role such as being a background support to parents and children alike. Not involved in things like decision making and such, they are still a vital part of the life of all parties involved.

This type of grandparent maintains a good balance by being a listening ear when needed, and encouraging the relationship between the parent and child. They should be careful to avoid coming across as too pushy, and always back up to the rules of the parents.

2. Fun Seeker

This is the type of grandparent that is all about fun. Planning fun outings with their grandchildren, their grandchildren know they will always have a good time when together. The things this grandparent needs to keep in mind is to make sure they are not undermining decisions the parents have made for their child. A “fun seeker” also needs to be sure that they don’t exhaust themselves while trying to keep a non-stop party going.

3. Surrogate Parent

A grandparent in this role is one who has taken over the caretaking of the grandchild. Sometimes it is informal, when the parent is feeling exhausted in their parenting role and a grandparent steps in and takes over. Other times, it is a formal and legal arrangement for a parent who is unable to care for their child for any reason. This can be due to drug abuse, neglect, parental death, etc.

A grandparent acting as a surrogate parent needs to take steps to find support for themselves in order to avoid burnout. Even a natural parent needs a break every now and then. A grandparent needs this even more, due to increased age and possible details surrounding the reason their grandchildren are with them.

A grandparent in this role has the responsibility to maintain boundaries and rules that would not be necessary in a formal grandparent’s role. As the parental figure for their grandchild, they need to provide structure and discipline to help their grandchildren thrive.

4. Reservoir of Family Wisdom

This role is often played by the grandfather, though grandmothers occasionally do as well. This figure tends to act as the authority of the family, and gives advice to all. They even manage to keep control over their grown children. This grandparent must learn to be respectful of boundaries and not overstep the parent-child relationship.

5. Distant Figure

A grandparent in this role plays a very small role in the life of their grandchild. They basically show up on holidays and special occasions. A grandparent in this role should see if there is any way to get more involved with their grandchildren, and be sure the distance is not caused by something they have done themselves.

There are many types of grandparents, but all are important. Depending on your family situation, you will notice that grandparents lean more closely towards one type than another. Decide how you want things to be, and take action to create the kind of grandparent role that is most beneficial for your family.