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Children are missing something when their grandparents are absent; grandparents feel a void when they have little contact with their grandchildren. The point is established early in this collection of interview anecdotes and children's drawings, and little more is added with the analysis provided by Kornhaber, a Westchester County child psychiatrist, and Newsweek writer Woodward. Children's drawings are used to demonstrate the depth of their relationships with their grandparents: an image on the left side of the page indicates that the person has ""slipped into the past,"" while a stubbly beard shows that the child has ""intimate knowledge"" of her grandfather. The drawings appear to fall into three distinct groups, reflecting the amount of interaction between the children and their grandparents. Only five per cent of the 300 children who participated in this study were found to have a deep, intimate relationship with a grandparent (i.e., ""close contact"" for ""maximum time""); and the finding held for grandparents interviewed extensively about their grandchildren, their lives, and their own grandparents. These are hardly surprising results, given American mobility and preoccupation with youth; but the authors reject such explanations, and hypothesize a ""new social contract."" This contract allegedly cedes all power to parents to determine grandparent-grandchild relationships, and is seen as the major force which has dissociated the two generations. Certainly such an attitude may figure, but there's no data from parents to support it. Finally, an ""emotional history"" of the grandparents shows most of them to feel powerless, role-less, disconnected, superannuated, disoriented, and replaced; as a remedy, the authors suggest--what else?--re-establishing strong ties with grandchildren, reasserting that biological instinct. Accurate to a point, but not very helpful.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1981
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday