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A selfish generation? 'Baby boomers', values, and the provision of childcare for grandchildren

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Lain, Dr Jakov JandricORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


‘Baby boomers’, born after the Second World War, have been portrayed as selfish and individualistic, depriving subsequent generations of the opportunities they benefitted from. This debate has ignored intergenerational transfers within families, such as provision of grandparental childcare. This article explores why grandparents choose to provide childcare for grandchildren while their adult children are working. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 55 grandparents, we argue that values are essential to understanding why grandparents chose to provide childcare in the first place. These relate to the importance of family-based childcare, familial obligations towards adult children, and intergenerational solidarity. While values shaped the desire to provide some childcare, the socio-economic and employment circumstances of adult children and grandparents influenced the nature of the childcare provided and the changes grandparents made to their lives to accommodate caring. Some grandparents significantly changed their employment and housing circumstances to provide childcare, undermining the stereotype of a ‘selfish generation’.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Airey L, Lain D, Jandrić J, Loretto W

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The Sociological Review

Year: 2020

Volume: 69

Issue: 4

Pages: 812-829

Online publication date: 04/05/2020

Acceptance date: 16/01/2020

Date deposited: 16/01/2020

ISSN (print): 0038-0261

ISSN (electronic): 1467-954X

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0038026120916104


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Funder referenceFunder name
CAHSS Impact Fund
University of Brighton Rising Stars Initiative