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Intergenerational Learning: Insight from Research Studies

"Increased grandparent involvement may bring with it certain challenges but it also presents great opportunities for personal enrichment and the growth of each individual family member as well as the extended family as a whole."

In March, 2014, I attended a forum hosted in Lancaster by the Sesame Workshop that addressed a number of themes, including the importance of grandparents in childhood education. Intergenerational learning is a topic that is drawing the attention of educators as grandparents are becoming more and more active and engaged in the lives of their grandchildren.

According to an AARP survey, the average age of a first-time grandparent is 47. 90% of the grandparents surveyed indicated that their role as a grandparent is an important one. While “spoiling the grandkids” ranked at the top of the job description of a grandparent, survey responders also indicated that teaching their kids family history is a very important part of their role.

“Grandparents aren’t just telling silly jokes these days. More than half report conversations with their grandchildren include meaningful topics such as morals and values (78 percent), religion and spirituality (66 percent), and illegal drugs and alcohol (50 percent.) Even 37 percent talk about dating or sex with at least one of their grandchildren. They also talk about key issues such as staying safe (73 percent), peer pressure and bullying (53 percent), and health/obesity (61 percent.) Almost half (45 percent) talk about issues their grandchildren have with their parents.

A grandparent can be the caring adult who loves unconditionally and provides that listening ear that all kids need, which helps shape who they become as adults.”

Today, more than 51.4 million – 1 in 6 – Americans live in a multigenerational household.

Surprisingly, Hawaii had the highest percentage of multigenerational family households, 8.3 percent of all households. Minority families provide an interesting case study when it comes to intergenerational learning.

According to Pew Research, “Among racial and ethnic groups, black children are the most likely to be cared for primarily by a grandparent—8% are, compared with 4% of Hispanics, 3% of whites, and 2% of Asian children.” The three main reasons for multigenerational households are:

1. Financial pressures
2. Situational circumstances (such as divorce and remarriage, single-mother parenting, etc.)
3. Cultural influences (immigrant families tend to live in multigenerational households

All this research serves to illustrate modern trends that indicate a growing level of involvement of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren.

As we watch the modern family become more and more diversified, it’s easy to forget the foundation of family: relationships built on trust and reciprocated love. Whether its a traditional family or one of multicultural and intergenerational bonds, the importance of empathetic connection and relationship remain the same.

Increased grandparent involvement may bring with it certain challenges, but it also presents great opportunities for personal enrichment and the growth of each individual family member as well as the extended family as a whole.

Part three of a four part series on generational learning.

Part 1 – Why Generational Learning Is Important
Part 2 – Williamsburg with My Grandmother
Part 3 – Intergenerational Learning: Insight from Research Studies
Part 4 – Tips for Intergenerational Learning

About Ethan Demme

Ethan Demme is the President and CEO of Demme Learning and is passionate about building lifelong learners. Ethan is an elected member of the board of supervisors in East Lampeter Township, PA. He has never backed down from a challenge, especially if it's outdoors, and is currently into climbing big mountains and other endurance sports. An active member of his local community, Ethan is a well-socialized homeschool graduate who holds a B.A. in Communication Arts from Bryan College.

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