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Why do we have grandparents and what role have they played in human history? According to evolutionary anthropologists, these three generation relationships are unique to humans. In fact, according to evolutionary anthropologist Kristen Hawkes and other proponents of ‘the grandmother hypothesis’, it’s precisely thanks to helpful grandmothering that we went from our ape-like ancestors to becoming humans. And according to some archaeological evidence, as we started to live longer, our older folks may have provided our ancestors with important knowledge that helped our survival.

Today, grandparents continue to play a huge role. Since the 1970s, the number of children in the US being raised by their grandparents has doubled. And in the aftermath of the Great Recession at the end of the 2000’s, that number rose even more. Grandparents are a form of safety net in times of crisis, and in Latino families, grandparents are more likely to expect to provide some form of care for their grandchildren. We explore the huge role grandparents have played and continue to play in our lives.

Photo by Diego López Román via Flickr.

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