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Portrait Sara Eldén. Photo: Emma Lord.

Sara Eldén

Associate Professor | Director of Research Studies | Senior Lecturer

Portrait Sara Eldén. Photo: Emma Lord.

Intensive grandparenting : Narratives of changing generational practices and relations.


  • Linn Alenius Wallin
  • Terese Anving
  • Sara Eldén

Summary, in Swedish

Grandparents’ involvement in their adult children’s everyday family life seems to have increased, especially in relation to care arrangements around grandchildren (Arber & Timonen 2012; May et al., 2012; Cantillon et al., 2021). This is the case also in Sweden, despite extensive public welfare provision of childcare (Hank & Buber, 2009; Björnberg & Ekbrand, 2008). This “new army of proxy parents” (Buchanan & Rotkirch 2019: 11) calls for the need to critically analyse grandparental care practices and ideals, in relation to demands on family life and parenting, and also, in relation to ideal of what is ‘good care’ for children.

Taking our point of departure in a study on intergenerational care in Sweden – involving grandparents, adult children and grandchildren (65 interviewees, using creative methods; drawings, diaries) – our analysis suggests the concept intensive grandparenting as an analytical lens for understanding contemporary grandparental involvement in care for grandchildren. Like intensive parenting/mothering (Hays 1996; Lareau 2003; Faircloth 2014), grandparenting today can be characterized as child-centred, emotionally absorbing, financially expensive and labour intensive (Hays 1996), and also as an ambivalent (Luescher & Pillemer 1998) and continuously gendered activity. In addition, it is largely done in the shadows of – and in complex relation to – parenting. Our analysis shows the need to view parenting and grandparenting practices as embedded in wider social contexts, both in relation to the changing welfare state and demands of work-family life, and in relation to changing ideals of care for children and relations between generations.


  • Department of Gender Studies
  • Department of Sociology
  • Sociology

Publishing year




Document type

Conference - other


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Gender Studies

Conference name

The 6th Nordic Challenges Conference.

Conference date

2023-05-24 - 2023-05-26

Conference place