The connection between a grandmother and her grandchildren is greater than with her children. And science has studied why

The connection between a grandmother and her grandchildren is greater than with her children. And science has studied why, Many people who are lucky enough to have grown up with grandmothers and grandfathers are well aware that these figures can polish a child’s development in unique and valuable ways. Since the years 60, several studies have postulated that one of the reasons why women tend to live decades past their reproductive years is that it increases the chances that their grandchildren will survive, through the physical support they often provide: the famous “hypothesis of the grandmother”. The most recent evidence suggests that children’s well-being and educational performance are also boosted by the presence of committed grandparents .

They say that grandchildren are the greatest joy in life, there is no doubt about that. But to the point that recent research on the subject has concluded that grandmothers may be more emotionally connected with their grandchildren than with their own sons and daughters.

The study. To better understand the biological foundations of this connection, Professor James Rilling, an anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta, USA, and his colleagues recruited 50 women with at least one biological grandchild between the ages of three and 12 years, and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan their brains while looking at photos of that child, the child’s parents, and images of a child and an adult without relationship. The results of the study were surprising.

The authors explain that what really stands out about the experiment is the activation in areas of the brain associated with emotional empathy. This means that a grandmother is designed to feel what her grandchildren feel when they interact with them. If your grandson is smiling, feel the joy of the child. And if your grandchild is crying, feel the pain and anguish of the child. “Our results add to the evidence that there appears to be a global parental care system in the brain, and that grandmothers’ responses to their grandchildren correspond with him, “explained Rilling.

Stronger than with the children. The most striking thing about the research is that she also performed the same exercise with the parents while they looked at pictures of their children. The activation observed in the grandmothers’ emotion processing areas, and in those associated with reward and motivation, was stronger, on average, than that of the parents, although there were also several exceptions for some parents, of course.

In contrast, when grandmothers looked at images of their adult child, tended to activate slightly different brain areas : those associated with cognitive empathy. This could indicate that they were trying to cognitively understand their adult child, rather than experiencing this more direct emotional connection. “Emotional empathy is when you can feel what another person feels, cognitive empathy is when you understand at a cognitive level what another person feels and why.”

The “grandmother hypothesis” . In fact, the famous theory even postulates that the reason why human females tend to live well beyond their years reproductive is because they provide evolutionary benefits to their descendants and grandchildren. The evidence supporting this hypothesis includes a study of the traditional Hadza people of Tanzania, where foraging by women grandmothers improve the nutritional status of their grandchildren. Other research from traditional communities showed that the presence of grandmothers decreases the intervals between their daughters’ births and increases the number of grandchildren.

And in more modern societies, evidence is accumulating that engaged grandmothers are associated with the best-performing children in a variety of fields, including academic, social, behavioral, and physical life.

Life expectancy. In the seventeenth-century settlements in Quebec , for example, women who lived close to their mothers were able to have more children starting at an earlier age, with a lower risk of infant mortality. Although older women today have a life beyond childcare, science shows that the relationship between grandmothers and grandchildren can be mutually beneficial. After all, women tend to live longer than men and fulfill the majority of caregiving roles worldwide.

It has been found that the elderly in Those who spend more time alone, such as eating unaccompanied, have a higher risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or heart disease compared to those who spend more time with other people on a day-to-day basis, underscoring the reciprocal relationship between social connection and physical health.

Better well-being, better education . With changing family patterns, increasing life expectancy, the increasing number of households with family disintegration, grandparents are now playing an increasingly important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Research from the University of Oxford has shown how grandparents play a vital role in the well-being of children. children and the results have already been applied to UK family policy.

Basically, the study came to say that a high level of participation of grandparents in a child’s education child makes them have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. And the result was even higher among teens from divorced or separated families. The book Grandparents: global perspectives , by psychologist Ann Buchanan , inquire more about it.

Although a limitation of the study is that the participants used to be mentally and physically healthy women who are high-functioning grandmothers (and at those ages there is a higher rate of diseases, dementia, Alzheimer’s) , may possibly help explain the embarrassing experience many people have when seeing how their parents seem more excited to see their grandchildren than they are at the typical Christmas dinner.

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