Cambridge University researchers recently made a rather bold announcement. They say that according to their recent study, a male grandchild’s risk of mortality actually increases when he’s in the care of his paternal grandmother.
Female grandchildren, on the other hand, seem to fare better when Grandma’s in charge.
It’s all part of the “grandmother theory” that says that women live past menopause so that they can help take care of their children’s children. Men, apparently, live past 50 so they can play golf and watch C-Span.
If I sound weary, it’s because I am. I’m tired of studies that pit boys against girls, women against men, one generation against the next, studies that put us all into neat little boxes and forget how complex life and relationships can be. I can just see some harried mother printing this story out and shaking it in front of her husband, “I told you we shouldn’t have let your mom watch the kids!”
So let’s do a little clarifying: Of the seven populations that Cambridge researchers studies, four lived in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The two modern populations were from Gambia and Malawi. According to lead researcher Molly Fox, the hypothesis is that a loving grandmother in the home would boost a child’s mortality rate, but a less loving grandmother — or one who plays favorites — would only use up the necessary resources that might have gone to the grandchild instead.
And why does Grandma love her girl grandchildren better? Because they got a bigger chunk of her DNA by hogging all of the X chromosomes.
Now, everyone who knows a grandma who loves her male grandchildren without measure, say along with me: HOGWASH.
This study might have some historical implications — maybe in tougher times, DNA and gender did play a bigger role in how grandparents meted out their affection. But in modern society when resources are abundant, relationships have the luxury of being much more fluid. Which means that, yeah, this study may be significant to an academic, but I think it has little value to parents and grandparents of today.
Also, what’s with the discounting grandfathers role as caregiver? I think PawPaw should be offended.
Photo: J.C. Rojas, Flickr