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Why a Maternal Grandmother Is So Important for a Child

If your grandmothers took part in your upbringing, your childhood memories are most probably filled with joy and the feeling of safety and comfort. Few of us have ever thought there was any difference in the way paternal and maternal grandmothers influence their grandchildren. According to scientists, however, there is something special we get from our maternal grandmothers apart from their love and affection.

Here at Bright Side we’ve studied some theories on the role of a maternal grandmother in a child’s life and here’s what we’ve found.

What do we share with our grandparents?

Genes are basic units of heredity made up of DNA. According to genetics, grandparents share on average 25% of their DNA with their grandchildren with the exact percentage depending on the DNA swapping. We inherit our genes from both our male and female grandparents, of course, but according to scientists it’s the maternal grandmothers who have the higher degree of influence on the offspring.

There’s something special our grandmothers give us.

Maternal grandmothers have closer connection with their grandchildren, as they give birth to the mothers who in their turn give birth to the children. In many families maternal grandmothers tend to bear more responsibility for the kids and spend more time with them. It’s not only the psychological connection that makes the role of maternal grandmothers so important but some theories suggest that genetically-speaking paternal and maternal grandmothers unequally invest in their grandchildren.

Scientific theories prove that there is a strong genetic bond between maternal grandmothers and their children.

One of the theories claims that the difference in the way paternal and maternal grandmothers are connected to their grandchildren may be explained by the X-chromosome connection. Maternal grandmothers have 25% X relatedness to both grandsons and granddaughters, while paternal grandmothers pass on one of their X-chromosomes to their granddaughters, but not to their grandsons. This makes paternal grandmothers 50% X-related to their granddaughters and 0% X-related to their grandsons.

Another theory suggests that the so-called “paternal uncertainty” may greatly influence the grandparents’ incentive to take care of their grandchildren. Paternal uncertainty implies that male members of the family may not always be sure they are bringing up their own children, as they do not give birth themselves. In the long run it may decrease the engagement of paternal relatives, including grandmothers, into caretaking behavior toward the offspring. At the same time, a woman is always sure she gave the birth to her child which makes the matrilineal connection the strongest in the family throughout generations.

Other theories suggesting the unique role of the maternal grandmother.

This theory that was developed by the Chilean novelist, essayist and playwright Alejandro Jodorowsky, suggests that of all the 4 grandparents we are most tightly connected to our maternal grandmothers. According to his theory, our genes may “skip” a generation and be passed from our grandparents directly to us, which can be proven by the fact that some people resemble their grandparents more than their moms and dads. Jodorowsky believes that apart from biological material, mothers pass on emotions to their daughters who later pass them on to their children.

The theories we’ve just shared with you speak about the special role of the maternal grandmother in the life of a child. We are all different, however, and we have different families with different ties and relationships. So, let us be thankful and appreciate the love, care, and wisdom our grandfathers and grandmothers give us, regardless of the genetic relatedness.

What do you think of these theories? Was there any special connection between you and your grandmother or grandmothers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Please note: This article was updated in May 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
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