When kids have , the benefits go way beyond warm fuzzy feelings or great Christmas presents. It turns out those close bonds affect how kids view the elderly in general. A new study, published in the journal , found that kids who spend quality time with their grandparents were less likely to hold "ageist" opinions about older people.
Researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium studied 1,151 children in the French-speaking part of Belgium, who were between the ages of 7 and 16. They asked the children what they thought about elderly people and getting old in general. They also asked about how the children felt about their grandparents, how their grandparents' health was, and how often they interacted with their grandparents.
It turns out that kids who spent quality time with Grandma and Grandpa had the most favorable opinions of the elderly. Overall, 10-to-12-year-olds who saw their grandparents at least once a week had the most favorable views about elderly people. And kids who described their with their grandparents as good or very good had more positive views about older people. (Sadly, kids who had grandparents in poor health were more likely to hold negative views about the elderly.)
"The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was poor quality of with grandparents," lead researcher Allison Flamion, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Liege, said in a . "We asked children to describe how they felt about seeing their grandparents. Those who felt unhappy were designated as having poor quality of . When it came to ageist views, we found that quality of mattered much more than frequency."
To be sure, the study was based in Belgium only, so it may not necessarily apply to grandchildren around the world. But it does demonstrate how important spending quality time between generations really is. "For many children, grandparents are their first and most frequent with older adults," study co-author Stephane Adam, a professor of psychology at the University of Liege, said in the press release. "Our findings point to the potential of grandparents to be part of intergenerational programs designed to prevent ageism."