Grandmothers play a crucial role in every person’s life. I remember mine as a symbol of wisdom, love, kindness, and honesty. Grandmothers teach us valuable lessons about life and show us that love is hidden in the smallest things, like freshly-baked cookies, funny goodnight stories, and warm hugs.
All grandmas contribute to the wellbeing of a child, but scientists suggest that the role of the maternal one is especially influential. Namely, some theories suggest that from a genetic point of view, paternal and maternal grandmothers do not invest equally in their grandchildren.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
Our genes are the basic units of heredity, and we inherit them from our parents. They are made of DNA which is then broken up into separate pieces known as chromosomes.
We have a pair of 23 chromosomes, one from each of our parents. The last pair of chromosomes is different, depending on the gender, and the other 22 are identical.
As half of our DNA is from the father and half from the mother, we share 25%b of our DNA with our grandparents.
Moreover, women have two copies of the X chromosome, while men have one Y and one X chromosome. These are responsible for determining the gender of the person.
So, maternal grandmothers pass on 25% of her X chromosomes to both her grandson and granddaughter, while a paternal grandmother will pass on one of her X chromosomes to her granddaughter, but she won’t pass an X-chromosome on to her grandson.
But how does this affect the child?
Biologists maintain that closer genetic relations affect grandmothers’ behavior. According to this “Grandmother Hypothesis”, post-menopausal women help their grandchildren to live longer lives.
Anthropologist Leslie Knapp and his team found a genetic link to support this theory. They investigated birth and death records of seven major populations in the world.
The data they examined went back to the 17th century, and they zeroed in on infant mortality rates and the presence of a maternal grandmother.
They eventually discovered that the effect of a maternal grandmother’s presence in a child’s life was influenced by her genetic relationship to them.
This means that the extent to which a grandmother cares for a grandchild depends on the percentage of her DNA in that child.
As maternal grandmothers are more genetically related to their grandchildren than paternal grandmothers, they may unconsciously care more for their maternal grandchildren.
This is no surprise, as a mother generally cares more for her son than her nephew, or she cares more for her sisters than for her cousins. Regardless of genetics, all grandparents generally love and care for their grandchildren.
Therefore, these findings only show that maternal grandmothers can dramatically contribute to future generations and explain the importance of these relationships.
Additionally, the Chilean novelist, essayist, and playwright Alejandro Jodorowsky claims that we are most strongly linked to our maternal grandmothers. He maintains that our genes may “skip” a generation and be passed from our grandparents directly to us.
This might explain why many of us resemble their grandparents more than their parents. He adds that apart from biological material, mothers pass on emotions to their daughters, and they, in turn, pass them on to their own children.
Jodorowsky suggests that the emotions that the grandmother felt during her pregnancy with her daughter were passed on to the baby and perhaps also to any future grandchildren.
Yet, the effort put forth by a grandparent will remain the biggest factor in the relationship with their grandchildren. Those who want to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren but still manage to respect the parental roles are generally the most successful.
In the end, we are all different, so we have different families with different ties and relationships. What truly matters is the love, respect, and care we all invest in and get from these connections.