Why Maternal Grandmothers Play a Special Role in Grandchildren's Lives

Why Maternal Grandmothers Play a Special Role in Grandchildren's Lives

Grandparents have a biological link to their grandchildren, too.

Did your grandmother play a role in looking after during your early years? If that was the case, chances are your childhood felt safe, comfortable and was full of happiness. We assume that grandparents from both the mum and dad’s side affect their grandchildren equally. However, science has shown why grandparents are important to grandchildren – especially maternal grandmothers – as they give their grandchildren something else besides love and affection.

Why grandparents are important to grandchildren- specifically, maternal grandmothers:

1. They have some genetic influence on their grandchildren

Every organism on Earth is made of DNA, which is like the alphabet for instructions. Genes are groups of DNA that make a whole message of instructions. These ‘instructions’ are passed from parents to their children with each generation.

Genetically speaking, grandparents generally have a quarter of their DNA in common with their grandchildren (the exact proportion depends on how much DNA was swapped).

Both male and female grandparents pass on their genes to their grandchildren. However, scientists have found out that maternal grandmothers have a greater effect on their grandchildren than other grandparents.

2. They may do more than just look after their grandchildren


  • are more closely bonded with their grandchildren, since they birthed their grandchild’s mum. 
  • are usually inclined to take up additional responsibility for the grandchildren. For example, they might interact with their grandchildren longer than other grandparents.
  • The psychological connection between a maternal grandmother and her grandchild isn’t the only reason why grandparents are important to grandchildren. Some speculate that paternal and maternal grandmothers don’t invest identically towards their grandchildren — in genetic terms.
why grandparents are important to grandchildren

Why grandparents are important to grandchildren: maternal grandmothers are known to spend more time with their grandchildren than their paternal counterparts. | Image Source: Stock Photo

3. There’s scientific proof of a strong genetic bond between maternal grandmothers and their children.

According to one theory, it is the X-chromosome that explains why paternal and maternal grandmothers connect so differently towards their grandchildren.

As we know, males are defined by a sex chromosome pairing of XY. Females are defined by the sex chromosome pair XX. The X and Y chromosomes are passed on from the sperm and egg of parents, which determine their baby’s gender.

25% of a maternal grandmother’s X chromosome is related to their grandchildren’s (male and female). On the other hand, paternal grandmothers transfer only one copy of their X-chromosomes towards granddaughters. However, they don’t pass on any X-chromosome material to their grandsons. That means that paternal grandmothers share 50% of their X-chromosomes with their granddaughters, but have 0% of X-chromosomes in common with their grandsons.

Other scientists believe that “paternal uncertainty” could largely affect a grandparents’ motivation to look after their grandchildren. This theory suggests that male family members might not be 100% convinced that they are caring for their own kids. After all, men weren’t the ones gave birth to their children – women were. 

Over time, “paternal uncertainty” could reduce the participation of paternal relatives in looking after their grandchildren  — including grandmothers.

On the other hand, women are always certain of the child she delivered. That means the matrilineal connection is the most powerful within families, connecting even through generations.

4. They play a special role as the maternal grandmother.

Another theory from novelist Alejandro Jodorowsk proposes that among the four grandparents grandchildren are closest to their maternal grandmothers.

In Alejandro’s theory, the genes from grandparents could pass over one generation. That means their genes could directly end up in their grandchildren, which explains why some people appear more similar to their grandparents instead of their parents.

Furthermore, he also believes that a mum doesn’t only transfer genes and DNA to her daughters. She also transfers emotions to her daughters, who repeats the process to her daughter.

Some of these theories seek to explain why grandparents are important to grandchildren — particularly maternal grandparents.

However, people come from all sorts of backgrounds and families and theories may not always reflect reality. Still, one thing remains certain. As grandchildren, we should be grateful and treasure whatever our grandparents invested in us, no matter how much of their genetical material they share with us. 

Parents, we hope that this article on why grandparents are important to grandchildren has been helpful. Have any thoughts? Share them in the comments section below!

Reference: New York Times


Also Read:

Grandparents don’t know the best: a study finds

4 ways to delicately prevent a grandparent from spoiling your child

4 Surprising health benefits of being a grandparent

Should you pay your parents to take care of your kids?

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