Four Generations

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

14 June 2011

Due to the growth in life expectancy it is usual to find four generations of the same family. However, the fact that women are now putting off having children until they are older means that this will soon be a thing of the past.

We live in times in which many Spanish families comprise members from up to four generations. Great-grandparents, or at least one of them, grandparents and their children and offspring, who are in turn grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It comes from the combination of an increase in life expectancy, which is more than 83 years for women and more than 78 for men, and from the fact that the current generation of grandparents had children when they were younger, usually between 25 and 30 years of age. The result is that a typical great-grandparent is more than 80 years old, grandparents are between 55 and 65, their children between 25 and 35 and the children of their children are still very young.

And, at times, we do not realise that we are witnessing an exceptional situation that was not very common in the past owing to a shorter life expectancy, and which will be even less common in the future because we are having children later in life.

It is true that the elderly will live longer. Women will perhaps reach 90 and men 84. But it is also true that young couples have their children well into the 30s and, when their children become parents, they will probably follow suit. Even if a grandmother who is now 65 with a granddaughter of two lives until she is 90, she will probably not live to see her great-grandchild, if he or she is actually born.

You see, we will be older and that is fine. But falling marriage and fertility rates will mean that these vertically large families, with their four generations, will become simply a relic from the past.

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