Why a Maternal Grandmother Is So Important for a Child

Why a Maternal Grandmother Is So Important for a Child

Grandmothers play a crucial role in our lives. They contribute to our well-being. As a child, the good night stories, cookies, songs, and warm hugs I received from my grandmother were done with so much love. Growing up, my maternal grandmother was someone I could always run to. She was always willing to hear me out and offer advice when I was in a dilemma. Her passing is one I mourned deeply. 

Those who are lucky to have grandmothers in their lives will acknowledge the enormous impact they have. But while all grandmothers contribute significantly to the wellbeing of a child, studies suggest that, genetically-speaking, maternal grandmothers invest more in their grandchildren. [1]

The researchers have provided a novel perspective: The difference in the way maternal and paternal grandmothers care for their grandchildren may be in the genetic composition. Each person is made up of DNA from both parents. This means that a child will have 50% of the father’s DNA and 50% of the mother’s DNA. In turn, grandparents will have 25% input in the DNA of a grandchild. Things get interesting when it comes to the maternal grandmother and the X-chromosome. [2]

Males have one copy of the X chromosome and one copy of the Y chromosome (XY), while females have two copies of the X chromosome (XX). Maternal grandmothers pass on 25% of her X chromosome to both grandchildren, regardless of gender. Paternal grandmothers, on the other hand, will pass on one of her X chromosomes to her granddaughters, making them 50% related. For grandsons, paternal grandmothers won’t pass on an X-chromosome, making them 0% related. 

Paternal Uncertainty

Another study has linked this closeness to an evolutionary thesis. The study, which was conducted by researchers at Newcastle University and the University of Antwerp, Belgium, explains that mothers, as well as grandmothers, are certain that children are genetically related to them. On the other hand,  before the advent of DNA, fathers and grandfathers could not guarantee that the children carried their genes. As such, they have to live with the uncertainty of the child not being theirs. In turn, this may decrease the engagement level of paternal grandparents.

“Family members related through their mothers (matrilineal kin) are predicted to matter more than those related through their fathers (patrilineal kin). Throughout human evolution, women were always related by certain maternity, whereas men could never be wholly certain that they are the biological father,” the study reveals. “Also, maternal grandparents were always more certain than paternal grandparents that a grandchild was related to them. Thus, maternal grandparents, especially maternal grandmothers, may go the extra mile to visit their grandchildren.” [3]

Another research posits that the challenging relationship some women have with their in-laws may be somewhat responsible for the lack of closeness between paternal grandparents and their grandchildren. If a mother, for example, has a rocky relationship with her mother-in-law, it is highly unlikely for the child to develop any meaningful relationship with that grandparent. [4]

Every family is peculiar 

While studies may show that grandmothers are close to the children, it is essential to note that there are exceptions. Every family is peculiar, and what’s obtainable in family A may not be the same in family B. Also, some daughters-in-law are more accepting, open, and value every overture of affection by her in-laws. The most important thing is treasuring the love and care, regardless of whichever side it comes from.


  1. Kids Really Are Closer to Their Maternal Grandparents, According to Expert.” Yahoo. Caroline Picard. March 26, 2018.
  2. The Differences Between Paternal and Maternal Grandmothers.Peps Jan Faull, M.Ed. Accessed February 26, 2020.
  3. Family Ties That Bind: Maternal Grandparents Are More Involved In The Lives Of Their Grandchildren.ScienceDaily. December 19, 2007.
  4. The Maternal Grandparent Advantage.The New York Times. Paula Span. March 21, 2018.