(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Children and teens who spend a lot of time with their grandparents may be less likely than peers who do not to have negative and stereotypical ideas about the elderly, a recent study suggests.
Researchers in Belgium asked 1,151 youth ranging in age from seven to 16 years about the time they spent with grandparents as well as their opinions about aging and the elderly. They found that kids who saw their grandparents at least weekly and described these interactions as happy were much less likely to express ageist views.
'Previous research had suggested that frequency of contacts with the elderly [time spent together] had no effect on children's attitudes towards older people, whereas a high quality of contact positively influenced these attitudes,' said lead study author Allison Flamion of the University of Liege.
But most of this research was done in university students, not in children and teens, Flamion said by email.
'The children in our study described their relationship with their grandparents very openly, as they perceived it,' Flamion said. 'We were somewhat surprised to find such a strong correlation between the children's perception of grandparents' contacts and the ageist stereotypes turning up in the questionnaires.'
In questionnaires, the researchers asked the youths about the health of their own grandparents, how often the two generations met and how the young people felt about their relationships with their grandparents.
In general, views on the elderly expressed by the children and adolescents were neutral or positive.
Girls had slightly more positive views than boys, and girls also tended to view their own aging more favourably, the researchers report in Child Development.
Ageist stereotypes appeared to change at various points in childhood, the study also found.
The youngest children, from seven to nine years old, expressed the most prejudice and kids from 10 to 12 years old had the most acceptance and tolerance.
Teenagers had more prejudiced notions about aging than pre-teens, but not as much as the youngest children in the study.
Grandparents' health may also influence how children think about aging, the study suggests.
Young people with grandparents in poor health were more likely to believe negative stereotypes about the elderly than children and teens with healthier grandparents.
The study was not a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how time with grandparents might impact children's views on aging.