Study Says Grandmas May Feel More Connected To Grandkids Than Their Own Kids

A new study out Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, suggests that grandmothers relate to their grandchildren differently than they do to their own offspring. (Sorry, parents: That suspicion you’ve long held that your mom feels closer to your kids? It might be true after all!)

Interested in studying the evolutionary value of grandmothering, James Rilling, a professor of anthropology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory, measured the brain function of about 50 women with at least one biological grandchild age 3-12.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the grandmothers’ brains as they stared at photos of a grandchild, the child’s parents and images of an unrelated child and adult.

“When grandmothers viewed pictures of their grandchildren, they particularly activated brain regions that have been implicated in emotional empathy, such as the insular and secondary somatosensory cortices,” said Rilling of his findings, which were published last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Simply put, “emotional empathy” is the ability to feel the emotions that another person is feeling, Rilling said.

Something else happened when the group of grandmas looked at photos of their offspring (the grandkids’ parents).

“When viewing pictures of the grandchild’s same-sex parent, who was often but not always the grandmother’s own adult biological child, they particularly activated areas of the brain involved with cognitive empathy such as the precuneus,” he said.

Cognitive empathy (also called theory of mind) is understanding at a cognitive level what someone is thinking or feeling and why ― maybe you even attempt to put yourself in their shoes ― but there’s less of a shared emotional experience than with emotional empathy.

Previously, Rilling and his team performed a similar study where they had fathers look at pictures of their children. Compared to data from that group of dads, grandmothers showed stronger activation than dads within areas of the brain implicated in emotional empathy and areas involved in reward and motivation.

Rilling said that it’s important to note here that there was some variation from person to person within the groups. For instance, some fathers scored higher on empathy than grandmothers.

“There is considerable evidence that grandmothers can contribute to grandchild well-being,” lead researcher James Rilling said. (Photo: Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images)

As an anthropologist, Rilling finds this topic utterly fascinating.

“I am interested in the ways in which humans are similar to and different from other primates,” he said. “One interesting difference is the way we raise our offspring. Great ape mothers raise their offspring all by themselves. Human mothers, on the other hand, typically receive help in raising their offspring.”

The source of that help can vary quite a bit across and within human societies, but grandmothers are an important source of help in many families, and Rilling said “there is considerable evidence that grandmothers can contribute to grandchild well-being.”

Building on the work of earlier biologists, in the 1980s and 1990s, anthropologist Kristen Hawkes proposed a theory that she and her team dubbed the “grandmother hypothesis.” It’s the idea that human females, unlike those of the other great apes, survive well past their reproductive years so they can help raise successive generations of children. (Sure, your mom loves to babysit your kids, but doing so also ensures the survival of her genes.)

As for the unique hold grandkids seem to have on their grandmas’ hearts, the reasoning behind that is still up for debate. A tired parent might hypothesize that it has something to do with the fact that grandma can spoil little Ezra or Eva all she wants and then send them back home to mom and dad at the end of the night. (Distance makes the heart grow fonder, especially when there are everyday tantrums involved.)

Rilling thinks that’s an interestingidea but pointed to something else.

“I think it may have more to do with the ‘cute’ phenotype of children, which is likely designed by evolution to make adults find them endearing and want to care for them,” he said.

We asked the experts: grandmas themselves.

Grandmas we spoke to had their own theories.

Marion Conway, a grandma of three and a blogger at The Grandma Chronicles, generally thinks there is more “growth, excitement and pleasure” to be experienced with her grandkids.

“Since you are not really an authority figure to your grandchildren ― rather you’re a promoter or supporter ― both of you are more open to a stress-free relationship,” she told HuffPost.

Donne Davis, the California-based founder of the grandma online community GaGa Sisterhood, said that she connects with her three grandchildren differently because she looks at them as a clean slate, as far relationships go.

“The different kind of closeness I feel with my kids versus my grandkids is based on our shared history,” she said. “Parenting can be a more adversarial relationship with power struggles, boundary-setting, some ego and definite responsibility for how your child will turn out.”

You don’t have that as much with your grandchildren, Davis explained.

“You just love them unconditionally and think everything they do and say is wonderful and exceptional,” she said.

The biggest difference [is that] my grandchildren tend to elicit strong feelings of joy and delight in me compared to my adult children.Lisa Carpenter, a grandma of six in Colorado and the author of “A Love Journal: 100 Things I Love About Grandma”

Lisa Carpenter, a grandma of six in Colorado and the author of “A Love Journal: 100 Things I Love About Grandma,” agrees that grandmas get to do “the fun stuff” and evade the “thorny issues of child-rearing.” (They’ve been there, done that with their own kids.)

Carpenter said the study rings true to her experiences to some degree, though she wouldn’t say she necessarily feels more connected to her grandkids compared to her adult children.

“I simply have different feelings overall about the two, besides loving and caring intensely about both,” she said.

“The biggest difference being that my grandchildren tend to elicit strong feelings of joy and delight in me compared to my adult children,” she explained. “Even an intense curiosity about who they are, what’s going on in their little minds, what interests them, who and what they will become.”

Exciting as that all is, Carpenter admits that at the end of a long, fun day with her grandkids, she’s glad to have her nights to herself.

“Usually, by the time the kids are tired and grandma’s tired, it’s time for the kids to leave, and the parents get to deal with crankiness and crying, while grandma gets a break,” she said. “That is when this grandma has stronger feelings for her adult children — feelings of gratitude.”

Also on HuffPost

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

Related…

News Related

OTHER NEWS

[Battery+] Samsung SDI losing competitive edge over rivals

Rivian’s R1T pickup truck powered by Samsung SDI batteries (Rivian) Samsung SDI is drawing market concerns as the South Korean battery firm seems to be falling behind the changing trends ... Read more »

9 out of 10 Korean firms ‘not ready' for supply chain risks

(123rf) Almost 90 percent of South Korean companies are unprepared for supply chain risks even though they are aware that those risks will continue this year. According to a survey ... Read more »

Samsung Electronics about to reach wage agreement

The flag of Samsung hangs in front of a building in the Samsung Town office park in Seocho District, Seoul, in this 2020 file photo. Korea Times photo by Bae ... Read more »

Exports of red pepper paste surge 63% over 4 years on K-pop popularity

gettyimagesbank Exports of red pepper paste soared nearly 63 percent over the past four years thanks to the global popularity of Korean pop culture, data showed Sunday.Overseas shipments of the ... Read more »

Coming soon: police body cams with facial recognition

Dany Tirza, 63, a former Israeli army colonel, stands next to a dummy as he speaks to AFP at his office in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim, in the ... Read more »

2021 was the 2nd hottest year on record: KMA

Last year was the second hottest year for South Korea on record as climate change continued to drive up global temperatures, the national weather agency said Sunday. A report from ... Read more »

Hyundai wins 5 awards in US News & World Report 2022

Hyundai’s Tucson Hybrid / Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group By Kim Hyun-bin Hyundai has won U.S. News and World Report 2022 Best Cars for the Money Awards in five categories, ... Read more »

Air traffic up 11% last year but still below pre-pandemic level: data

Planes of South Korea’s top flag carrier Korean Air Lines Co. and No. 2 carrier Asiana Airlines Inc. are parked at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Dec. 1, ... Read more »

Your mobile number is already registered on WhatsApp? Why you should not worry

WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users worldwide. Despite criticism and safety concerns, the Meta-owned messaging platform continues to be the preferred choice among users. It is also one of ... Read more »

Netaji 3D Hologram statue at India Gate: What is 3D Hologram and how you make one using any smartphone

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that a grand statue of iconic freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate. It will be a ... Read more »

Air traffic up 11 pct last year but still below pre-pandemic level: data

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s air traffic rose nearly 11 percent last year on increased domestic flights but international travel continued to falter amid the pandemic, data showed ... Read more »

UFC 270 live stream: how to watch Ngannou vs Gane online

Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a heavyweight Octagon match-up to really get the MMA juices flowing. And tonight’s Francis Ngannou vs Ciryl Gane main event is looking like an ... Read more »

Video games that diagnose, monitor and treat depression developed by scientists

Software analyses the patient's voice, eye gaze and micro-expressions along behavioural measures including reaction times, memory and error rates. Read more »

Barty vs Anisimova live stream: how to watch Australian Open tennis 2022 online

Ashleigh Barty and Amanda Anisimova have faced off only once before, but it was an unforgettable occasion for both players. The 20-year-old American has already pulled off one of the ... Read more »

Exports in free trade zones hit all-time high last year: data

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) — Exports by companies in South Korea’s free trade zones grew 89.6 percent on-year to hit an all-time high last year, the industry ministry said Sunday. ... Read more »

Elizabeth Hurley is unbelievably gorgeous as she poses in red bikini

Elizabeth Hurley always stuns her fans with her phenomenal physique, and she did it once again on Saturday in a showstopping snap. WOW: Elizabeth Hurley highlights radiant beauty in sensational ... Read more »

Covid 19 Omicron: Sore throat most common symptom that could be warning you're infected

One Covid symptom could be warning you that you’re infected with the virus before a positive rapid antigen test. As Omicron surges around the world, experts are warning of the ... Read more »

Some Predictions for How the Metaverse Will Impact Our Lives

The change of Facebook’s name to Meta came as a bit of a shock to the world. However, the keynote given by Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates that Facebook is expanding beyond ... Read more »

Hong Kong's Sandbox VR was nearly killed by Covid, but it now has global ambitions amid surging demand

Hong Kong-Based virtual reality start-up Sandbox VR plans to expand to 40 locations around the globe, more than tripling the 12 shops it already has, in a rebound after Covid-19 ... Read more »

Companies fear new industrial accident law

By Lee Kyung-min Shipbuilding, construction, machinery and parts manufacturing companies are deeply concerned about a new law set to take effect next week that will hold the heads of big ... Read more »

Mum, 26, died after flying to Turkey for gastric bypass surgery

Khelisyah Ashamu was aged 26 when she died. (SWNS) A mother-of-one died due to complications from gastric bypass surgery in Turkey, a coroner has ruled. Khelisyah Ashamu, an IT professional ... Read more »

Amanda Holden stuns fans with behind-the-scenes look at glam makeover

We're majorly excited that the latest series of Britain's Got Talent is filming, and we're also loving all of Amanda Holden's showstopping looks. SEE: Amanda Holden stuns fans with beautiful ... Read more »

Holly Willoughby stuns in white dress in never-before-seen photo with birthday girl Emma Bunton

Holly Willoughby stunned her fans on Saturday when she shared a gorgeous photo of herself and close friend Emma Bunton. MORE: Victoria Beckham stuns fans in mini-dress as she marks ... Read more »

Hunt for mystery man who rings doorbell at night and then walks away

Police have released CCTV footage of the unidentified doorbell ringer. (SWNS) Police are searching for a man who's been repeatedly ringing a doorbell on Thursdays. Officers have released CCTV footage ... Read more »

China must brace for ‘digital cold war' with US as battle for tech supremacy heats up

China needs to brace for a “digital cold war” with the United States as the two nations go head-to-head for dominance of the internet economy. The warning from a top ... Read more »

Shop huge furniture deals at Amazon, Macy's, QVC and West Elm ahead of Presidents' Day 2022

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. If you’re been itching to refresh your home or add a ... Read more »

Daily Covid infections in UK less than half recorded two weeks ago

Photograph: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images The UK detected 76,807 new Covid infections in the past 24 hours, a 54% drop on the 176,191 cases detected two weeks ago as the record-breaking ... Read more »

Lab monkey missing after US highway crash, people warned not to approach

Residents of a Pennsylvania county have been warned not to approach a monkey missing after a crash involving a pickup that was towing a trailer taking about 100 of the ... Read more »

Reply all threads: The worst tech nightmare: Talking Tech podcast

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current ... Read more »

Stock up on flavorful Omaha Steaks and save more than 50% on steaks, sides, desserts and more

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. If you miss dining at your favorite steakhouse and savoring the ... Read more »

How to Use Keyword Difficulty in Your Content Strategy

Targeting proper keywords is as crucial to successfully operate a website as creating eye-catching images or coming up with a winning URL. To assess which keywords are or are not ... Read more »

10 Things to Check Before Launching a Website

Successfully launching a website is no easy feat. Almost inevitably, just when it looks as though yours is ready to go live, it turns out that eagerness got the better ... Read more »

Xiaomi 12 Ultra rumors make me think I was too harsh on the Mi 11 Ultra

I gave the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra a mixed review, and while I stand by the middling score it received, my thoughts have softened over the last six months – ... Read more »

The quest to tackle mental illness in the workplace before it even exists

One of the most frustrating aspects of a career in clinical psychology, says Dr. Nick Taylor, is that the doctor never gets to see the patient at the optimal moment. ... Read more »

Samsung QN85A Neo-QLED TV gets huge $700 price cut in today's deals

The 65-inch inch version of the stunning Samsung QN85A Neo-QLED TV is just $1,499.99 (was $2,199.99) in today’s deals at the official Samsung store. Not only is this larger size ... Read more »

Chime lines up Goldman Sachs for blockbuster IPO: Sources

Digital banking provider Chime Financial Inc has asked Goldman Sachs Group Inc to help it with preparations for an initial public offering in New York, according to people familiar with ... Read more »

Schoolboy who cares for disabled mum wins scholarship to Eton

Ilyan Benamor with mum Lalia. (SWNS) A schoolboy who is the sole carer for his disabled mum has been awarded an £80,000 scholarship to attend Eton. Ilyan Benamor, 15, went ... Read more »

Furious chip shop manager exposed himself to resident in Camden parking row

Poppies fish and chip shop in Camden Town (Google StreetView) A manager at a top London chip shop who was fired after exposing himself in a rage during a parking ... Read more »

Intel's new chip-making 'mega-site' in Ohio could house up to 8 factories

© Intel Corporation A rendering of the Intel factories in Licking County, Ohio. Intel is investing $20 billion into a new semiconductor manufacturing “mega-site” in Ohio, the technology company confirmed ... Read more »

How to watch West Indies vs England: live stream T20 cricket series from anywhere

West Indies host England in a five-match T20 series that serves as a welcome distraction for both teams. The Men in Maroon are looking to rebuild, while England’s men are ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic