Nevertheless, the feelings that grandparents have for their own child and those, however loving, that they have for a grandchild are usually appreciably different (Kornhaber, 1996).
A major Australian study has found that most preschool grandchildren have contact with their grandparents.
Very few children (2.9 per cent of infants and 2.6 per cent of four to five year olds) have no face-to-face contact with at least one grandparent (Gray, Misson & Hayes, 2005).
This paper discusses the issues involved in grandparent roles in the above circumstances and suggests ways in which service providers can support grandparents.
Most grandparents look forward to the birth of a grandchild, especially the first grandchild, and the pleasure of getting to know the child without the responsibility that being a parent involves.
Contact between grandparents and grandchildren is not entirely a matter of choice but depends on such things as physical proximity, the ongoing relationship that they have with the parents of the grandchildren and other demands on their time from other families of grandchildren (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1985; Kornhaber, 1996; Troll, 1985).
Where the relationship between parents and grandparents is difficult or tenuous, it may not be easy for grandparents to have an ongoing close and loving relationship with the grandchildren (de Vaus, 1994).
Some become grandparents when they are relatively young and in the workforce, while others, because of the later age of parents at the birth of their first child, may be retired or approaching retirement.
The grandparent role changes over time as grandchildren grow, other grandchildren are born, as family members marry, separate, remarry and move away and grandparents grow old and sometimes frail.
Grandparents often have fulfilling relationships with their grandchildren, watching them learn and grow and being part of their lives, while others find that they are expected to do too much.
Some have to bring up their grandchildren when the parents cannot and some do more childminding than they had expected.