Communication Between Grandparents and Grandchildren in Geographically Separated Relationships: A Case Study

by Caitlin Frister
Communication Studies
Faculty advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Lamoureux

There are almost 70 million grandparents in the United States and this number is growing (Francese, 2009). Everyone has a grandparent but not everyone has a relationship with their grandparent. “Highly involved grandparents may provide crucial support to the parent and grandchild generations”(Barnett, Scaramella, Neppl, Ontai, Conger, 2010). This involvement is not only beneficial to grandchildren and parents, but to grandparents as well (Barnett, Scaramella, Neppl, Ontai, Conger, 2010).  This case study will examine the communication between grandparents and grandchildren in one family by focusing on 1) channel choice/use and 2) how distance influences their communication and consequently, their relationship. Baxter and Montgomery’s Relational Dialectics theory helps explains the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren who are geographically separated by looking at the dialectic tensions they face. Watzlawick’s Interactional View helps examine the role distance plays on the extended family system. Lastly, Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm will examine the power of family stories and their influence on geographically distanced grandparents and grandchildren.