Relationships between Adolescents and Grandparents in Switzerland : Conjugal Separation and Lineage Effects

By Alexandre Pillonel, Cornelia Hummel, Ivan De Carlo, Catriona Dutreuilh

What type of relationship is maintained between grandparents and grandchildren when the couple formed by the intermediate generation is separated ? This question is analysed using data from the Swiss survey Enfants, adolescents et leurs grands-parents dans une société en mutation (Children, adolescents and their grandparents in a changing society) conducted in 2004 on a sample of 685 adolescents who were asked about their relationships with their grandparents. They highlight several facets of these relationships, notably with regard to lineage effects. Contrasting with the now classic assertion of matrilateral bias following divorce or separation, our multivariate analyses provide some original new insights : while grandparent-grandchild relations are indeed weaker when the parents are separated than when their union is intact, the difference is quite small. Moreover, matrilateral bias is observed not only in separated families, but also in intact ones, and parental separation is not associated within an increase in matrilateral bias. In our societies, these findings can be interpreted as a sign of changing relationships between family members after parental separation.


  • family
  • grandparents
  • grandchildren
  • conjugal separation
  • intergenerational relationships
  • lineage
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