Grandfathering: the construction of new identities and masculinities

Tarrant, Anna (2012). Grandfathering: the construction of new identities and masculinities. In: Arber, Sara and Timonen, Virpi eds. Contemporary Grandparenting: Changing family relationships in global contexts. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 181–201.



Men’s roles and identities as grandfathers are insufficiently explored in social science literatures (Bates, 2009; Tarrant, 2010). There has been a proliferation of interest in fathering and grandparenting in Britain (Clarke and Roberts, 2002; Dench and Ogg, 2002), but this has not resulted in further interest in grandfathers, whose roles, relationships, identities and practices remain inadequately theorised (Mann, 2007). This chapter focuses on men who are grandfathering with a particular focus on stories of men whose families have been affected and restructured by divorce, either their own divorce or the breakdown of their children’s relationships. My analysis of the empirical data confirms that men want to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives and this is achieved through various practices. It further reveals that this form and functioning of grandfathering is regulated by the quality and character of intergenerational relationships (as conceptualised by Katz and Lowenstein, 2010), which influences how men perform and construct their identities in a variety of ways. A ‘new’ identities approach (Fairhurst, 2003) is suggested to make sense of how the contemporary context shapes the familial and intergenerational relationships of men in middle- and old-age, and gives rise to multiple grandfathering roles and experiences. The chapter therefore focuses on grandfathering, identity construction and masculinities, and the contradictions that some men face in resolving these.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions