If you’re like most American grandparents, you’d accept a grandchild who came out as gay, bisexual, or trans, but you’re not convinced that gender is non-binary.
You’re uncomfortable discussing dating, race, and politics with your grandkids.
You don’t consider yourself a financial supporter of your grandkids, but you spend thousands of dollars a year on them.
These are some of the intriguing findings of a new AARP study that surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,654 grandparents last summer. (Step-grandparents were included.) Half of the survey respondents were Baby Boomers ages 54 to 72; one-third were older than the Boomers; the remaining 17 percent were younger.
Here are some highlights from the study:
• When asked if they agreed with the statement, “If my grandchild came out as LGBT, I would accept him/her regardless,” the vast majority of grandparents (88 percent) answered yes, though only about half of those respondents agreed with the statement “strongly.” Just 37 percent of survey respondents agreed with the statement, “Gender is non-binary.”
• Only 23 percent of grandparents said they were comfortable discussing politics with their grandkids; likewise, only 23 percent are comfortable discussing dating, sex, and sexuality with them and only 29 percent are at ease with conversations on racism and race relations. (I would have expected all those figures to be somewhat higher.)
• By contrast, just over half of grandparents are comfortable talking about “morals and values” with their grandkids, and just under half are comfortable discussing their grandchildren’s college and career plans. (Even those percentages strike me as fairly low. I would have expected a strong majority of grandparents to be comfortable talking with their grandkids about both of those topics.)
• While 79 percent of grandparents do not consider themselves financial supporters of their grandkids, 94 percent spend money on them, with the average grandparent spending $2,562 per year. Much of that money goes toward gifts, vacations, and school or college tuition.
• Most grandparents (77 percent) think today’s parents are “too lax” with their children, and only about 20 percent think contemporary parenting is superior overall to parenting in the past. (Those figures didn’t surprise me, but I was shocked to learn that 54 percent of grandparents consider spanking “an effective form of discipline.” My guess is that most Grandparent Effect readers don’t.)
• On average, grandparents have four to five grandchildren, but in many cases, they don’t see enough of them. Almost a third of grandparents live more than 50 miles from their closest grandchild, and just over half have at least one grandchild living 200 or more miles away. Sixty-three percent of grandparents say they don’t see their farthest-flung grandchild often enough. Grandparents and grandkids keep in touch by telephone (46 percent), text (28 percent), video chat (24 percent), Facebook (18 percent), and email (16 percent).