MPIDR Working Paper
Support from grandparents and mothers’ depression around the time of separation
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-020, 45 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (October 2021)
Objective. This study examined mothers’ depression trajectories around the time of separation by potential availability of support from their youngest child’s grandparents.
Background. Separation and single motherhood are both associated with an increased risk of depression. Grandparents are often the most important source of support to families with children, and their support may moderate separating mothers’ depression trajectories.
Method. Using longitudinal Finnish register data on 118,006 separating mothers whose youngest child was age 12 or less, we examined the mothers’ depression trajectories, based on antidepressant use 4 years before and 4 years after separation. The trajectories were examined by grandparental characteristics – age, employment, health, geographical distance to the mother, and union stability – using logistic panel regression.
Results. Grandparent’s availability for providing support, as proxied by younger age, employment, and lack of severe health problems all predicted a lower probability of maternal depression both before and after separation. The level of depression was also lower if grandparents lived close to the mother, and if the maternal grandparents’ union was intact. Overall, the maternal grandmothers appeared to matter the most.
Conclusion. The availability of support from grandparents may partially compensate for the resource losses related to separation, and it is associated with lower maternal depression both before and after separation.
Keywords. Separation, depression, mothers, grandparents, social support