All In the Family: Rise in Multigenerational Living

Last week’s issue of Newsweek magazine reported that multigenmultgenerational3erational living in the U.S. is on the rise. According to the U.S. Census, households with three or more generations increased by 38 percent between 1990 and 2000, to about 4 million multigenerational households in 2000. Since then, the trend appears to have continued with the number of parents living in the homes of their adult children having increased by 67 percent between 2000-2007, as well as more adult children moving back home with their parents.  Part of this trend may reflect an increase in immigration to the U.S., with many immigrants preferring extended-family living.  Also, these changes likely stem, at least in part, from tough economic times. As sociologist Frances Goldscheider points out in the article   “It is so much less expensive to have one kitchen, one living room, one dwelling to heat.”  Furthermore, changes in young adulthood with the extended time it takes for young people to complete their education and attain financial independence may partly explain young people’s “failure to launch” and prolonged coresidence with mom and dad.  On the other hand, increased longevity may mean that more elderly parents are moving in with their adult children as they are healthy enough to live without intensive medical care, but may need or prefer family help or care.  But in addition to these economic and demographic changes, there is likely a cultural shift around intergenerational relations toward closer, friendlier connections between generations that may make multigenerational living more appealing. As family scholar Stephanie Coontz remarked  “Over the past 30 years, more democratic methods of child-rearing and delay of marriage have resulted in deeper friendships between parents and children.”

Certainly multigenerational living  may present some challenges to family members, particularly those who do the bulk of the household work and caregiving.  But this also may offer new possibilities for lifelong family relationships, shared care and pooled resources that may benefit all family members, particularly those in the younger and older generations.

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