The postponement of grandmotherhood: a cohort comparison in East and West Germany

Thomas Leopold, University of Amsterdam
Jan Skopek, University of Bamberg

This research explored the postponement of grandmotherhood in East and West Germany, investigating how timing and life-course context of this transition had changed across cohorts. We employed methods of survival analysis to estimate the timing of passages into the grandmother role as well as overlap with potentially competing roles of a worker in paid employment, a mother of coresident children, and a filial caregiver of elderly parents. Data from the German Aging Survey (N = 1,754) revealed a rapid rise of approximately three months per year in the median age at grandmotherhood: From pre-war to post-war cohorts, this age increased from 47 to 53 in the East and from 55 to 60 in the West of Germany. As a result, the grandmother role decoupled almost entirely from active motherhood. Overlap with worker and filial roles, in contrast, occurred frequently and remained remarkably stable across cohorts. Our findings direct attention to a so-far neglected demographic trend that is striking in scope and unlikely to slow down in the near future.

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Presented in Session 29: Trajectories into old age