On the Origin of Grandmas

grandma and baby

They pinch your cheeks, knit you sweaters and feed you mountains of mashed potatoes. Is that why you’re still alive?

According to a 1997 survey from the American Journal of Sociology, fewer than 60% of U.S. women live within an hour’s drive of their parents, meaning that many grandparents have been relegated to matters of vacations, Christmases and birthday cards.

This peripheral role of grandparents is a relatively new phenomenon – especially for grandmothers. For thousands of years grandmothers helped with child care, domestic chores, even food gathering. In fact, anthropologists have argued that the effect of grandmotherly care on child survival was so potent that it shaped some of our most basic biology: menopause, cognitive decline, even longevity itself.

These evolutionary benefits of grandmothering evaporate when grandmas no longer live with (or near) their grandchildren. Studies have also suggested that only youthful grandparents provide discernible benefits to child health. So as the distance between grandparents and children grows, both in geography and in age, does this spell the end to the grandmother effect?  READ MORE

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