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Grandmothers Feel Closer to Their Grandkids Than Their Own Children, Reveals Study

Grandmothers Feel Closer to Their Grandkids Than Their Own Children, Reveals Study

There has always been a bond between grandmoms and grandkids and it will be there forever.

Someone said that the love between a grandmother and a grandchild is forever. Many people who grew up with loving grandmothers know this feeling. These lucky people can also appreciate the wealth of knowledge that they have received because of this very special inter-generational bond between grandmothers and grandchildren.

There is no denying that the relationship between grandmothers and grandkids is a special one. A small study of neural snapshots captured by a team of Emory University researchers and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that the bond they share is visible in the brain.

50 grandmothers were gathered for the study, and each of them had at least one biological grandchild between the ages of three and 12. The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the grandmothers' brains as they looked at photos of that child, the child’s parents, and images of an unrelated child and adult. In the study, it was revealed that when the grandmothers looked at images of their adult child, areas of their brain associated with cognitive empathy were activated. 



 

 

"When grandmothers viewed photographs of their grandchildren, they particularly activated brain regions that have previously been associated with emotional empathy, suggesting that grandmothers may be predisposed to share the emotional states of their grandchildren," Rilling said, per USA Today.

So, simply put, when shown the pictures, the grandmothers were attempting to emotionally empathize with their grandchildren while trying to cognitively understand what their adult children were thinking.

"It is our first glimpse at grandmaternal brain function. It suggests that grandmothers particularly rely on neural systems that are involved with emotional empathy when engaging with their grandchildren," Rilling said.



 

 

According to Fox News, when compared with results from an earlier study by the Rilling lab of fathers viewing photos of their children, results showed that grandmothers activated more parts of the brain that involved emotional empathy and motivation.

"That suggests that grandmothers are geared toward feeling what their grandchildren are feeling when they interact with them," Rilling said in an Emory news article. "If their grandchild is smiling, they’re feeling the child’s joy. And if their grandchild is crying, they’re feeling the child’s pain and distress."

“I can relate to this research personally because I spent a lot of time interacting with both of my grandmothers,” Minwoo Lee, one of the co-authors of the study says. “I still remember warmly the moments I had with them. They were always so welcoming and happy to see me. As a child, I didn’t really understand why.” 

"In many societies, grandmothers are important caregivers, and grandmaternal investment is often associated with improved grandchild well-being," the study’s authors wrote. 



 

 

This probably explains why the U.S. celebrates Grandparents’ Day each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day in September. The proclamation was signed by former President Jimmy Carter in 1978. "Because they are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take the daily responsibility for them, they can reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations," the proclamation read. 

References:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspb.2021.1997

https://www.fox13news.com/news/grandmothers-may-hold-deeper-bond-with-grandchildren-than-own-children-study-suggests?

https://news.emory.edu/stories/2021/11/esc_grandmothers_brain_reaction_grandchildren_rilling_lee_17-11-2021/campus.html

Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

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