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Grandparents as Foster-Parents: Transformations in Foster Relations Between Grandparents and Grandchildren in Northern Benin

  • Erdmute Alber

Abstract

This article deals with an aspect of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren: the fosterage of grandchildren by their (classificatory) grandparents. By becoming social parents with full responsibility for their social children, grandparents—as foster-parents—take upon themselves the characteristics typical both of parental roles involving authority, and grand-parental behaviour involving joking, warmth and proximity to their fostered grandchildren. The practices of grandparental fosterage, as well as changes in them, need to be understood in the broader context of widespread fosterage among Baatombu, where the majority of children grow up not with their biological parents but with foster-parents. The gradual decline of old forms of fosterage is affecting foster practices between grandparents and grandchildren. The grandparents’ generation evaluate this decline negatively and fear that changing fosterage patterns may adversely affect their social security in old age.

Cet article traite d'un aspect de la relation particulière entre grands-parents et petits-enfants : la prise en charge des petits-enfants par leurs grands-parents (classificatoires). En devenant des parents sociaux pleinement responsables de leurs enfants sociaux, les grands-parents, en tant que parents nourriciers, adoptent les caractéristiques typiques à la fois des rôles parentaux faisant intervenir l'autorité et du comportement grand-parental faisant intervenir la plaisanterie, la chaleur et la proximité avec les petits-enfants dont ils ont la charge. Les pratiques de prise en charge grand-parentale, ainsi que leur évolution, sont à appréhender dans le contexte plus large de la pratique répandue du placement d'enfants chez les Baatombu, où la majorité des enfants grandissent non pas avec leurs parents biologiques, mais avec des parents nourriciers. Le recul progressif des anciennes formes de placement affecte actuellement les pratiques d'accueil entre grands-parents et petits-enfants. La génération des grands-parents voit ce recul de façon négative et craint que l'évolution des modèles d'accueil n'ait un effet négatif sur sa sécurité sociale lorsqu'elle sera vieille.

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