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University of Siegen
Faculty II
Education · Architecture · Arts
Department of Educational Science and Psychology
International Education Doctorate (INEDD)
My Grandparents and I:
Intergenerational relations between grandparents and grandchildren
from the point of view of the children
Inaugural Dissertation
for the Degree of
Philosophical Doctor
Dr. phil.
Submitted by
Anne Carolina Ramos
Caxias do Sul, Brazil
Siegen, June 2011This dissertation is dedicated to my beloved Granny Catarina,
for the many happy childhood memories from the times I spent with
Of my memories as a grand-daughter, I have a special fondness for
the times we used to go to the cowshed together to milk the cows
and come back carrying two buckets brimming with fresh milk;
In my memories as a grand-daughter, there are some canticles and
verses in Italian, that you taught me; the games we played under the
cinnamon tree, around the reservoir, in the tamed countryside, when
the cows came home at sunset; there is the smell of cake coming out
of the oven, the taste of delicious home-made food, the color a
ducks egg and fresh salam i omelet and the smell of free-range
chicken risotto;
In my memories as a grand-daughter, there are your hands, granny,
molding the fresh cheese and vigorously stirring the golden-yellow
polenta mixture, as I sat at the already dying embers and fed the
stove another piece of firewood...Acknowledgements
I owe a debt of thanks to many individuals. For the four years I have been involved in
this research and the writing of this dissertation, I have crossed paths with many people
for longer or shorter periods of time , who have provided help in some way. I am very
grateful for the understanding of my family and friends, from whom I have been separated
by a great distance for the past two years studying in Germany. Thank you for having
continued to encourage me to study and to keep our friendship alive by way of the new
media! I also thank you for your tolerance when I have been absent, either because of the
time difference, or because of my dedication to this thesis, which has not given me much
free time.
I would also like to thank:
The Post Graduate Program in Education of Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul,
which opened many doors for me, both in class discussions and during the supervision of my
CNPq and DAAD, who funded my research both in Brazil and in Germany.
The International Education Doctorate Program of Universität Siegen, which hosted
me in Germany. Especially, Prof. Dr. Insa Fooken, my German supervisor, who always
understood about my language difficulties and showed great interest in me and my work.
Thank you for our conversations, the bibliographies, and the kindness and helpfulness you
have shown me!
My German-Brazilian supervisor, Prof. Dr. Johannes Doll, who acted as a bridge
between Brazil and Germany, allowing me to have this unique research opportunity and life
experience. Many thanks for having believed in me and helped me with many details!
PD Dr. Imbke Behnken, for having agreed to be one of the examiners, thereby
enriching the dialogue about childhood sociology. Thanks for your reading and evaluation,
which will certainly shed new light on my work!
Prof. Dr. Leni Vieira Dornelles, who acted as my third supervisor in all but name.
Many thanks for the discussions we had throughout the research project and for
encouraging me to think and forge relations. You were a great travelling companion in the
world of children!Prof. Dr. Clarice Ehlers Peixoto, for having received me so warmly on her course in
Generational and Family Anthropology. It was during our conversations that I discovered
important authors for my work, which enriched by field study enormously. Many thanks for
the discussions and contributions you have made to my research project before and during
the qualification process.
Prof. Dr. Alda Britto da Motta, for having agreed to be one of the examiners in Brazil,
thereby enriching the dialogue between generations. I thank you for making yourself
available and for your reading!
Prof. Dr. Maria Aparecida Bergamaschi and Prof. Dr. Vania Beatriz Merlotti Herédia
for their contributions during the qualifying period, which led me to rethink the way I would
go about it.
Prof. Ms. Tânia Ramos Fortuna for her lovely suggestions about childrens play .
Thanks for the bibliography you sent me!
Prof. Ms. Maria Bernadette Castro Rodrigues, who, since my graduation, has followed
my studies and encouraged me along the way. Thank you, Berna, for the conversations, help
and ideas!
Prof. Dr. Carmen Bezerra Machado, Prof. Dr. Carmem Maria Craidy, Prof. Dr. Maria
Carmem Silveira Barbosa, Prof. Dr. Simone Valdete dos Santos and Prof. Dr. Jorge Alberto
Rosa Ribeiro, for the conversations in classes, which contributed so much to my training as a
Dr. Paul Webb, who translated this thesis from Portuguese into English with due care
and dedication. Thank you for your interest in my research and for having attempted to
render the impressions, feelings and memories of the children interviewed in an appropriate
My friend, Caroline Buaes (Negra), who has been a constant companion, for the long
conversations on Skype, which helped me so much in developing the subject of this research.
Thank you for the times we have shared together and for having put a roof over my head
during my field research!
My friends, Luciana Piccoli and Josele Trapp, for having helped me to put together
the materials used for the field work with the children and for always being there for me,
sending me messages of encouragement.Fernanda (Big Fer) for having helped me during the DAAD grant application process
and helped me make this difficult decision! And for the fun we have had together! All of this
was crucial!
My friends from Brazil: Josânia (Juju), Cíntia, Gisa, Jaque, Rê, Paty, Zé, André, Isa,
Juliana, Cris, Sílvia, Rosa, Maria Alice, Tati, for your friendship! And my new friends from
Germany: Renata, Luciana, Christopher, Dani, Ana, Sigrid, Bertrand, Chiraz, Chris, Asit and
the group of guys, for the wonderful times we have spent together in Cologne. Without you
my stay in Germany would not have been the same!
My dear friends, Evelyse and Julien, for the wonderful times we have spent in your
homes! Thank you for listening to my thoughts on the dissertation, for having helped me
translate the French and for having become special friends!
My parents, for investing in me and helping me to come this far, helping me to take
wing and pursue my dreams. Thank you for your boundless love and dedication!
My sister, Paula, for carefully reading this dissertation, which helped be greatly in
concluding it; my sister, Sabrina, for our conversations and her help with translation; and my
brother, Vagner, and my sister-in-law, Cristina, for their help with the bibliography!
My husband, Daniele, for being such a loyal companion, coming with me to Germany,
encouraging me to study, research and take part in courses and conferences. Thank you for
reading my words, listening to my queries, helping me to format the thesis and rooting for
me throughout the production of this thesis. Words cannot describe the dedication and love
that you have shown...
The school where I did the field-work, which was kind enough to open its doors to me
and my research. In particular, Felicitas, Veroni, Celassi, Márcia, Simone, Viviane, Rosana,
Renata and Déia for their collaboration and encouragement.
And the teachers who let me sit in on their lessons, Cláudia, Gislaine, Jaqueline,
Josânia, Marièlly and Marilene. Thank you for making me feel welcome!
Special thanks is due to all the children who participated in this study and their
parents and grandparents , who are the co-authors of this thesis, since they helped me to
understand their world and gave up their time to talk with me. Thank you for having left
your class to meet with me, for having taken the photos and done the homework and for
getting involved in the subject-matter of this thesis. Without you, none of this would have
been possible!List of Symbols
Individual of indeterminate sex
Female individual
Male individual
Deceased individual
Second marriage Le cose dei bambini e per i bbaimni si apprendono solo dai bambini
Loris Malaguzzi (1995, p.51)Abstract
This dissertation examines intergenerational relationships between grandparents and
grandchildren from the childs point of view. In an effort to understand these relationships
better, 36 boys and girls aged between seven and ten years were interviewed in the course
of six meetings, which took place during school hours. The children interviewed came from
middle and upper middle class families in the city of Porto Alegre (in the Brazilian State of
Rio Grande do Sul) and belong to four different family types: nuclear, single parent,
reconstituted and three-generation. This enabled intergenerational relationships to be
studied in different circumstances. In this thesis, children talk about how they live in their
families and about how contact with grandparents is established within the family structures
under analysis. The childrens biographies show the effect of divorce and remarriage on
intergenerational relationships, the importance of ties established by the middle generation
and a strong propensity to establish and maintain contact with the maternal family line. In
their experience as grandchildren, boys and girls report moments of care, discovery,
adventure and play, and their grandparents home appears in its full relevance and
uniqueness. This is an important place in the childs world, and the children show, through
their knowledge, that living with grandparents contributes to the constitution of the
childhood self. Intergenerational contact is revealed to be an interactive and co-educational
process, which provides old and young alike with opportunities to learn and teach. Childrens
ties to their grandparents may be so strong that not even the latters death can break them.
Keywords: intergenerational relationships, sociology of childhood, grandparents,
grandchildren, contemporary families.Zusammenfassung
Die vorliegende Dissertation untersucht die intergenerationellen Beziehungen zwischen
Großeltern und Enkelkindern aus der Perspektive des Kindes. Um diese Beziehung besser
verstehen zu können, wurden 36 Jungen und Mädchen im Alter zwischen sieben und zehn
Jahren im Verlauf von sechs Untersuchungseinheiten, die während der Schulstunden
stattfanden, interviewt. Die befragten Kinder kommen aus mittleren und oberen
Mittelschichtfamilien in der Stadt Porto Alegre (im brasilianischen Bundesstaat Rio Grande
do Sul) und gehören vier unterschiedlichen Familienformen an: Kernfamilien, Ein-Eltern-
Familien, rekonstruierte Familien und Drei-Generationen-Familien. Auf diese Weise konnten
die intergenerationellen Beziehungen in unterschiedlichen Lebenszusammenhängen
untersucht werden. In dieser Arbeit sprechen Kinder darüber, wie sie in ihren Familien leben
und wie sich der Kontakt mit den Großeltern unter der jeweiligen Bedingung der hier
berücksichtigten unterschiedlichen Familienformen gestaltet. In den Biografien der Kinder
lassen sich sowohl die Auswirkungen von Scheidung und Wiederverheiratung auf die
intergenerationellen Beziehungen nachweisen als auch die Bedeutung der durch die mittlere
Generation geschaffenen Bindungen sowie die Tendenz zur Intensivierung der Kontakte
innerhalb der mütterlichen Familienlinie. In ihrer Rolle als Enkelkinder berichten die Jungen
und Mädchen von der Erfahrung von Fürsorge, von Momenten der Entdeckung, von
Abenteuer und Spiel, so dass das Haus bzw. die Wohnung der Großeltern sich als hoch
bedeutsam und einzigartig für sie erweist. Es ist ein wichtiger Platz in der Lebenswelt des
Kindes und die Kinder machen durch ihr Wissen darüber deutlich, dass das Leben mit
Großeltern ganz wesentlich zur Konstituierung eines Kindheits-Selbst beiträgt. Der
intergenerationelle Kontakt erweist sich als ein interaktiver und wechselseitiger Ko-
Entwicklungsprozess, der Jungen und Alten in gleicher Weise die Gelegenheit gibt, zu lernen
und zu lehren. Die kindlichen Bindungen an die Großeltern können so stark sein, dass selbst
der Tod der Großeltern diese nicht abbrechen.
Schlagworte: intergenerationelle Beziehungen, Soziologie der Kindheit, Großeltern,
Enkelkinder, gegenwärtige Familien.Resumo
Esta pesquisa trata das relações intergeracionais entre avós e netos a partir da perspectiva
das crianças. Com o objetivo de conhecer melhor essas relações, 36 meninos e meninas, com
idades entre sete e dez anos, foram entrevistados ao longo de seis encontros ocorridos
durante o período escolar. As crianças, pertencentes à classe média e média alta da cidade
de Porto Alegre (RS), fazem parte de quatro grupos familiares diversificados: vivem em
famílias nucleares, monoparentais, reconstituídas e conviventes com avós, o que possibilitou
olhar para essas relações a partir de diferentes lugares. Nesta pesquisa, as crianças falam
sobre o modo como elas vivem nessas diferentes famílias e sobre como o contato com os
avós se estabelece dentro desses diferentes contextos. Em suas biografias, podemos
observar o atravessamento do divórcio e dos recasamentos nas relações intergeracionais, a
importância dos elos estabelecidos pela geração do meio e uma forte inclinação ao contato
com a linha materna. Na experiência de ser neto, meninos e meninas narram momentos de
cuidado, de descobertas, de aventura e de brincadeira, nos quais a casa dos avós aparece
com toda a sua relevância e singularidade. Esse é um importante espaço de trânsito do
universo das crianças, e elas nos mostram, por meio de seus saberes, que o convívio com os
avós contribui para a própria constituição do eu infantil. O contato intergeracional surge
como um processo interativo e co-educativo, onde tanto os mais velhos, quanto os mais
novos, têm a chance de aprender e ensinar. Para as crianças, os vínculos que os unem
podem ser tão fortes que nem a finitude dos avós é capaz de desfazer esses laços.
Palavras-chave: relações intergeracionais, sociologia da infância, avós, netos, famílias