+
Family

Study shows that grandmas may feel closer to their grandkids than their own children

grandmas, evolution, grandma effect

A grandmother and grandchild.

For the past 55 years, scientists have theorized that a major reason why humans live so much longer past their reproductive years than other species is because of grandmothers.

The "grandmother effect," as it's known, postulates that in hunter-gatherer societies, grandmothers played a vital role in finding food and raising children. In fact, the grandmother's role was so important that it had a huge impact on whether or not children survived.

"By relieving a mother of some of her child-raising responsibilities, so the thinking goes, grandmothers make it easier for their daughters to have more children and also make it possible for those children to have longer lives by helping them during the difficult early years of life," Haider J. Warraich writes in Stat.

Two studies further this hypothesis by showing the important roles that grandmothers have in the survival of their grandchildren. A study of birth and death records in Finland for individuals born between 1731 and 1890 found that having a maternal grandmother between the ages of 50 and 75 increased a child's survival rate.

Another study found that proximity to grandmother matters, too. The shorter the distance between grandmother and grandchild, the more involved the grandmother can be and the more benefits that accrue to her daughter and grandchildren.


The grandmother effect could be a major reason why a new study shows that grandmothers may feel a closer emotional bond to their grandchildren than their own offspring.

A study by James Rilling of Emory Universityin Atlanta, Georgia published in "The Royal Society" measured brain function in 50 grandmothers with at least one biological grandchild between 3 and 12 years old.

Grandmothers were shown photos of their grandchild, an unknown child, an unknown adult and the same-sex parent of the grandchild. The study found that when a grandmother saw a photo of their grandchild it activated parts of their brain associated with emotional empathy and movement.

When the grandmothers saw a photo of their adult child, it activated areas of the brain associated with cognitive empathy. So, to put it simply, 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.

"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."

Given the importance of the grandmother effect, it's no surprise that our grandmothers seem to be hardwired to love us in the deepest way possible. Science shows that without this incredible bond, humans may not have made it this far. Conversely, it also shows that without having such an important role in their post-reproductive years, our grandparents may not have evolved to live so long.

In the end, the relationship appears to be symbiotic. Grandmothers promote the survival of a child who one day may grow up to be a grandparent and live longer because they have such an important role in the life of their grandchild.


All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

How do blind people cook? This "Masterchef" winner leans into her senses.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17


There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

Keep ReadingShow less
This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

Because you're a girl.

This article originally appeared on 04.14.17


I was promoted a few weeks ago, which was great. I got a lot of nice notes from friends, family, customers, partners, and random strangers, which was exciting.

But it wasn't long until a note came in saying, “Everyone knows you got the position because you're a girl." In spite of having a great week at a great company with great people whom I love, that still stung, because it's not the first time I've heard it.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15


Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20


From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16


Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

Keep ReadingShow less