Grandmas May Feel Closer To Their Grandkids Than Their Own Kids, According To A Study

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There are a lot of factors that contribute to human survival but grandparents are apparently one of them. In the past 55 years we’ve managed to find out that one big reason why we can now live so much longer than other species is thanks to our grandmothers.

Our grandmothers are often unappreciated because they’re not the primary caregivers for their grandkids, yet without them, many families wouldn’t have been able to make it as far. Let’s shine the spotlight on them for a second to notice the impact that they have on their grandkids.

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The Grandmother Effect

grandma and grandaughter hug and smile

Ekaterina Shakha / unsplahs

Ekaterina Shakha / unsplahs

The “grandmother effect,” was a term that started around the 1960s when researchers were trying to understand human survival. They found that grandmothers played a big part in raising children. From a genetics point of view, since the grandchildren carry a portion of their genes, grandmothers will instinctively want to help those children survive.

What happens is that grandmothers help alleviate some of the responsibilities of taking care of the child, especially in the early and difficult years which then helps those children have longer lives and even encourages the mother to have more children. Some studies have even linked being in grandparents’ care wot better grades and fewer behavioral problems.

Grandmothers Play A Role In Survival

blac and white photo of grandma with grandkid

Sergiu Valena / Unsplash

Sergiu Valena / Unsplash

There are a couple of studies that have proven the hypothesis of the grandma effect and show how much of an impact grandmother can have in the children’s survival. If you want to talk numbers, a study of birth and death records in Finland found that having a maternal grandmother between the ages of 50 and 75 increased a child’s survival rate by 29.5%.

A second study shows that it’s not just the existence of a grandmother, that matters but her proximityto her grandchildren. The shorter the distance, the more involved she can be in the child’s life and make an impact.

Grandmothers And Grandchildren Share A Special Bond

grandma in traditional hindu clothings holding grandaughter

Ajin K / Unsplash

Ajin K / Unsplash

​So how does this relate to why grandmothers feel closer to their grandchildren than their own offspring? Before explaining that, keep in mind how we found this out.

The study first measured brain function in 50 grandmothers with at least one biological grandchild between 3 and 12 years old. The grandmothers were shown four pictures: one of their grandkids, one of a random unknown kid, and another of an unknown adult and the same-sex parent of the grandchild. What they found was that the key was in their brain’s association with emotional empathy. When they saw a picture of their grandkid, it activated those parts of the brain.

Grandmothers Have More Empathy For Their Grandchildren

grandma and grandaughter bake cookies and chat

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

It turns out that it might all come down to empathy. The difference in seeing pictures of their grandchild instead of their adult child was that it activated different parts of empathy in the brain. With their grandchildren, the grandmas tried to emotionally empathize, but with their own kids, grandmas found themselves trying to understand what they were thinking instead.

This means that grandmas are able to connect with their grandkids on a more emotional level. Their emotional empathy towards them lets them feel joy when the grandkids are happy or bond over pain when the child is in distress instead of only trying to understand what’s on their mind.

We Wouldn’t Be Here Without Them

grandma reads story in bed to two children by her side

Alex Green / Pexels

Alex Green / Pexels

​In simple words, grandmothers might just be hardwired to love their grandkids on such a deep emotional level that they feel what they feel. This level of empathy creates such a strong bond that has maximized the child’s survival odds and longevity.

For many of us, we wouldn’t be here without the love and support of our grandparents because when our parents just couldn’t understand, what mattered to our grandparents wasn’t understanding but being there for us.

From One Generation To The Next

Grandma holds young man close and hugs him in backyard party

Askar Abayev / Pexels

Askar Abayev / Pexels

​What goes around comes around and that’s the beautiful cycle of life. In other words, grandparents are helping the same children survive who then grow up to become their own loving grandparents in their own right. It all goes to show how much of an impact we each have on one another even with the smallest action, in a never-ending butterfly effect.

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