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A Theory of the Value of Grandchildren


  • Debra Friedman

    (Arizona State University, Dean, College of Public Programs, Mail Code 3520, 411 N Central Ave, Suite 600, Phoenix, AZ 85004- 0685, USA,

  • Michael Hechter

    (School of Global Studies, Arizona State University,

  • Derek Kreager

    (Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University,


As innovations in medical technology extend average longevity, grandparents become increasingly present during the lives of their grandchildren. We propose a theory that seeks to explain differential investment in grandchildren. The theory relies on a fundamental assumption of uncertainty reduction to explain why grandparents in post-industrial societies might find it rational to invest in at least one of their grandchildren. We advance numerous illustrative hypotheses about end of life uncertainty, as well as proportional and differential investments in grandchildren, and discuss the relevance of existing empirical literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Debra Friedman & Michael Hechter & Derek Kreager, 2008. "A Theory of the Value of Grandchildren," Rationality and Society, , vol. 20(1), pages 31-63, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:20:y:2008:i:1:p:31-63

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