Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttps://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rcrr20Communication Research ReportsISSN: 0882-4096 (Print) 1746-4099 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcrr20Relational maintenance and caregiving in thegrandparent-grandchild relationshipDaniel H. ManssonTo cite this article: Daniel H. Mansson (2020) Relational maintenance and caregiving in thegrandparent-grandchild relationship, Communication Research Reports, 37:1-2, 1-10, DOI:10.1080/08824096.2020.1736540To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2020.1736540Published online: 27 Apr 2020.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 121View related articles View Crossmark data
Relational maintenance and caregiving in thegrandparent-grandchild relationshipDaniel H. ManssonABSTRACTThe purpose of this study was to examine the relationshipsbetween grandparents’use of relational maintenance behaviors(RMB) and their young adult grandchildren’s willingness to serveas future caregivers for their grandparents. Undergraduate stu-dents (N= 209) completed a questionnaire in which theyreported on a specific grandparent’suseofRMBandhowwillingthey were to serve as future caregivers for that specific grand-parent. Results of a multiple regression analysis provided partialsupport for the hypothesized positive relationships betweengrandparents’use of RMB and grandchildren’s willingness toserve as future caregivers for their grandparents.KEYWORDSGrandparents;grandchildren; relationalmaintenance behaviors;caregivingSimilar to many other western countries, the life expectancy in the UnitedStates (U.S.) has increased by roughly 12% since 1970 (U.S. Census Bureau,2011), and current population projections indicate that, from 2012 to 2040,the U.S. population aged 18–65 years is expected to increase by 10% whereasthe proportion of people +65 years old is believed to increase by 85%(Ortman, Velkoff, & Hogan,2014). At the same time, the prevalence ofchronic illnesses is steadily increasing in the U.S. (Partnership to FightChronic Disease,2007). These“increases in life-expectancy and chronicillnesses have drastically amplified the burden experienced by family care-givers”(Egbert,2014, p. 307). Thus, contemporary“family caregiving is moreintensive, complex, and long lasting than in the past”(Schulz & Eden,2016,p. 73), which affects both the healthcare system and family-life (Ortmanet al.,2014). Specifically, grandchildren often assume the role of caregiversfor their grandparents due to the grandparents’own children being active inthe workforce, because the grandchildren have been raised by their grand-parents, or because of GP-GC geographical proximity (Bursack,2018).However, even when grandchildren are the primary caregivers of theirgrandparents, the middle generation may affect the caregiving process asparents influence the GP-GC relationship because they encourage GP-GCinteractions (Soliz & Harwood,2006).Daniel H. Mansson (Ph.D., West Virginia University, 2011) is an associate professor of Communication Arts &Sciences at Penn State Hazleton. 76 University Dr. Hazleton, PA 1822. Phone: (570) 450-3540. E-Mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.Correspondence: Daniel H. Mansson, 76 University Dr., Hazleton, PA 1822. E-mail:email@example.comCOMMUNICATION RESEARCH REPORTS2020, VOL. 37, NOS. 1–2, 1–10https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2020.1736540© 2020 Eastern Communication Association
The commonness of family caregiving (i.e., a relative or partner whoprovides emotional, instrumental, and physical assistance for an older familymember; Archbold, Stewart, Greenlick, & Harvath,1992; Family CaregiverAlliance,2014), has spawned a new line of family communication research.These studies focus on communication in ongoing family caregiving relation-ships (Polk,2005), caregiver health literacy (Young, Stephens, & Goldsmith,2017), end-of-life care planning (Freytag & Rauscher,2017), and effects ofcaregiving on caregivers (Zarit,2006), but little is known about how inter-generational family communication in ongoing relationships affects theyounger generation’s willingness to serve as future caregivers for theiraging family members. Thus, because most relational communication serveto sustain relationships and because understanding relational maintenancebehaviors (RMB) has both theoretical and practical implications (Dainton &Myers,2020), this study aims to examine the associations between grand-parents’use of RMB and their grandchildren’s willingness to serve as futurecaregivers for their grandparents.A host of studies indicate that the grandparent-grandchild (GP-GC) rela-tionship is a mutually supportive, beneficial, emotionally close, and enduringrelationship (seeBernhold & Giles ). Despite the mutually beneficialnature of the GP-GC relationship, grandchildren believe it is primarily thegrandparents’responsibility to maintain their relationships (Kennedy,1990).Central to the sustainment of dyadic relationships are people’s use of RMB,which are communication messages and behaviors enacted by relationalpartners to preserve a desirable and lasting relational state (Stafford,Dainton, & Haas,2000). Although the types of RMB people use may varyacross relational context (Dainton & Myers,2020), grandparents often useadvice, assurances, conflict management, networks, openness, positivity, andtasks to sustain their GP-GC relationships (Mansson,2019).Advicecenterson provision of social support, such as offering opinions and suggestions,whereasassurancesdeals with expressed commitment and willingness toremain in the relationship.Conflict managementmeans that relational part-ners resolve conflicts in a patient and considerate manner, andnetworksrefers to the relational partners’shared friends and familial groups.Opennessrefers to overt conversations about the relationship, whilepositivitymeansthat relational partners engage in optimistic and cheerful communication.Lastly,tasksrefers to relational partners’mutual efforts to complete theirdaily responsibilities and chores (Stafford et al.,2000).Although these RMB are used by grandparents, the nature of the variousbehaviors may differ across relational contexts. For instance, grandparentsoffer grandchildren advice, participate in family gatherings, and share secretswith their grandchildren (Eisenberg,1988); grandparents also provide gui-dance (Kennedy,1990), emotional support (Soliz,2008), and affection fortheir grandchildren (Kennedy,1990). Moreover, grandparents cook and2D. H. MANSSON
clean with their grandchildren (Mansson,2016), self-disclose (Baker,2007),express pride in their grandchildren (Harwood & Lin,2000), and resolveconflicts (Cherlin & Furstenberg,1986), suggesting that RMB are common inthe GP-GC relationship.Other studies indicate that RMB are used mostly in equitable relationshipsand they tend to reduce the receivers’relational uncertainty while fosteringdesirable relational outcomes for the recipients, such as partner liking, trust,relationship commitment and satisfaction, control mutuality, and communica-tion satisfaction, which in turn motivates the recipients to sustain their relation-ships (see Dainton and Myers  for a review). Thus, when grandparents usethese behaviors, grandchildren likely perceive their grandparents and their GP-GC relationships favorably, and therefore desire to prolong their relationshipsby caring for their grandparents, which prompted the following hypothesis:H: Grandparents’use of RMB will be related positively to grandchildren’swillingness to serve as future caregivers for their grandparents.MethodParticipants, procedures, and instrumentsUndergraduate students (N= 209, 50.2% males,Mage=19.68,SD=1.41,range = 18–25 years) participated in this study. The participants weremostly sophomores (49.5%), followed by freshmen (26.0%), juniors(17.8%), and seniors (6.7%) who self-identified as African Americans(8.0%), Asian Americans (3.0%), Caucasian Americans (67.2%), Hispanic/Latino Americans (17.4%), Native Americans (.5%), and other (4.0%).After securing IRB approval, the researcher visited introductory and upper-level courses at a small, northeastern U.S. university to recruit participants. Toqualify for this study, the participants had to be 18–25 years old and have at leastone living grandparent. Those who met these criteria and volunteered toparticipate completed a questionnaire in class. After providing their own basicdemographic data, they were asked to:“Think about the biological grandparentwhose birthday is closest to your own and then complete the following questionsin reference to that specific grandparent. If you do not know your grandparents’birthdays, think about the biological grandparent with whom you most recentlycommunicated and then complete the following questions in reference to thatspecific grandparent.”This method ensures that the participants do not simplyreference their favorite grandparents.The target grandparents (Mage= 74.74,SD= 8.41, range = 56–96 years)were mostly maternal grandmothers (44.9%), followed by paternal grand-fathers (26.3%), maternal grandfathers (16.1%), and paternal grandmothersCOMMUNICATION RESEARCH REPORTS3
(12.7%). The emphasis on maternal grandmothers mirrors seminal GP-GCresearch in that, compared to other grandparents, maternal grandmothersmake themselves more available to their grandchildren (Eisenberg,1988) andgrandchildren often feel closest to their maternal grandmothers (Hartshorne& Manaster,1982). The participants indicated that, on average, they interactwith their target grandparents twice per week (i.e., 35 times per semester,SD= 39.50, range = 0–120 [i.e., daily], median = 20, mode = 5 timesper semester). Finally, the participants completed the RelationalMaintenance Behaviors Scale (Stafford et al.,2000) and the Preparednessfor Caregiving Scale (Archbold et al.,1992). Scale items were modifiedslightly to reflect the GP-GC relationship.The Relational Maintenance Behaviors Scale (RMBS)This scale consists of 31 Likert-scale items ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to 7 (strongly agree) that assess the participants’use of seven RMB: advice,assurances, conflict management, networks, openness, positivity, and tasks.In this study, the RMBS was treated as an other-report measure because theparticipants reported on their grandparents’use of RMB to sustain their GP-GC relationships. Sample modified items are:“My grandparent acts cheerfuland positive around me”and“My grandparent tells me he/she loves me.”The Cronbach’s alphas were.87 (itemM= 5.48,SD= 1.62) for advice, .94(itemM= 5.04,SD= 1.59) for assurances, .93 (itemM= 5.28,SD= 1.67) forconflict management, .85 (itemM= 5.70,SD= 1.58) for networks, .93 (itemM= 3.87,SD= 1.66) for openness, .89 (itemM= 5.77,SD= 1.60) forpositivity, and .94 (itemM= 5.34,SD= 1.67) for tasks.The Preparedness for Caregiving ScaleThis scale consists of 8 Likert-type items ranging from 0 (not at all prepared)to4(very prepared) that assess how prepared the participants are to provideinformal caregiving to older family members. In this study, the items werereworded to reflect“willingness,”rather than“preparedness,”to serve as care-givers, and the word“grandparent’s”substituted the words“family member’s.”To reflect“willingness”rather than“preparedness,”the response format wasreworded such that the word“prepared”was replaced with“willing.”Samplemodified items are:“I am willing to take care of my grandparent’sphysicalneeds”and“I am willing to take care of my grandparent’semotionalneeds.”The Cronbach’s alpha was .95 (itemM=3.26,SD=.90).ResultsThe hypothesis predicted that grandparents’use of RMB would be relatedpositively to grandchildren’s willingness to serve as future caregivers for theirgrandparents. First, the seven RMB were correlated with willingness to serve as4D. H. MANSSON
caregiver to ensure they should be included as predictor variables in the regres-sion analysis. The Pearson correlations indicated that all seven RMB wereassociated positively with grandchildren’s willingness to serve as future care-givers for their grandparents (rrange = .48 – .66,p< .001). Thus, all seven RMBwere entered in the regression analysis used to test the hypothesis.The regression analysis yielded a significant model, adjustedR2=.53,F(7,190) = 33.01,p. < .001, but an examination of the tolerance statistics (TS) andvariance inflation factors (VIF) indicated that the VIF was 5.28 for assurances,which is indicative of multicollinearity (Garson,2012), along with several othermeasures not used in this study. Therefore, the assurances factor was removedfrom the predictor variables. The next multiple regression analysis also yieldeda significant model, adjustedR2= .52,F(6, 191) = 37.21,p.<.001,withthehighest VIF being 3.50 and the lowest TS being .29, suggesting that the multi-collinearity issue had been resolved. Unlike advice (β=.02,p= .79), networks(β=.01,p= .90), openness (β=.13,p=.07),andpositivity(β=.08,p=.34),conflict management (β=.19p= .04) and tasks (β= .40,p< .001) were the onlytwo RMB that emerged as significant predictors. Thus, partial support wasobtained for the hypothesis.DiscussionThis study sought to examine the relationships between grandparents’useofRMB and grandchildren’s willingness to serve as future caregivers for theirgrandparents. A multiple regression indicated that only grandparents’use ofconflict management and tasks RMB significantly influenced grandchildren’swillingness to serve as future caregivers for their grandparents. It is possiblethat grandparents’current use of tasks RMB convey that they are willing toassist their grandchildren as future caregivers, which may boost the grand-children’s willingness to care for their grandparents. Family caregiving isa time-consuming process that occupies 25 hours per week of the caregivers’time (Lin & Lu,2005), resulting in many family caregivers experiencing bothpsychological and physiological health concerns (Vitaliano, Zhang, &Scanlan,2003; Zarit,2006), which may be less intense when care-receivinggrandparents enact tasks behaviors to assist their care-giving grandchildren.Thus, to ease the caregivers’burden, care-receivers often believe they shouldassist their caregivers to the best of their ability (Cox & Dooley,1996).Although the care-receivers’ability to actively participate in the care-giving process may vary, some care-receiver behaviors that may simplifythe care-giving process are to educate themselves about their conditionsand medications, project a positive attitude, learn new self-care/coping stra-tegies, participate in planning/scheduling of their care, consider the care-givers’schedules, needs, and emotional well-being, utilizing additionalresources (e.g., local social and health services), offer to complete lightCOMMUNICATION RESEARCH REPORTS5
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