What is a multigenerational household? A multigeneration household consists of multiple generations within the household. Multigeneration families include a child under 18 living with their parent and at least one grandparent in the home. Why is this a trend? The United States life expectancy is increasing, which means children are more likely to have a living grandparent within the home (Hamilton, Martin, Osterman, & Rossen, 2019). The life expectancy of older individuals increases the opportunity for multigenerational co-residence.
Many other factors may have resulted in the trend of multigenerational households such as decreased fertility in women, relationship status, immigration, and women employed in the workforce (Pilkauskas, Amorim, & Dunifon, 2020). Other considerations may be due to fall-related injuries, which results in the older individual moving in with their daughter or son for care and prevention of future injuries (Nelson & Nelson, 1998). Living alone has challenges for receiving care and support services. It may be difficult in rural communities to receive care throughout the day when needed (Lapsley et al., 2020). A multigenerational home resolves this issue by having the grandparents within the house for their needs to be met.
Vlachantoni, Shaw, Evandrou, and Falkingham (2015) reported that individuals who were unable to perform daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and functional mobility were more likely to need support from others. The benefits of a multigenerational home include sharing resources such as rent, electricity, and transportation. Sharing resources can reduce living costs for the family. Also, living with family members can reduce loneliness. Although there are benefits of a multigenerational household, there are also challenges.
According to Musil, Warner, Zauszniewski, Wykle, and Standing (2009), grandmothers who are very involved in caregiving face health risks and are at greater risk of depression. Family life stresses such as complicated family relationships, parenting roles, or grandchild health problems can impact the caregiver's mental health. Furthermore, Musil and Standing (2005) reported that a grandparent's stress is related to their parenting role. The most common stressors reported by grandmothers were child-rearing issues, school routine issues, school progress, grandchildren's activities, grandchildren's health, and personal interactions. However, married and employed grandmother caregivers have fewer depressive symptoms. Having social support, both informal and formal, can lead to better mental health for grandparents who are the primary caregiver or live in a multigenerational home.
Overall, a multigenerational home can benefit an individual who wants to receive support from their family member. However, there needs to be strong communication among the individuals in the house to ensure that each individual gets the best form of care to reduce stress occurrences. A multigenerational family allows for care to be provided to older individuals who are no longer able to live independently within their own home and require some assistance throughout their day. An individual considering living in a multigenerational home should thoroughly determine if it would meet their needs and enhance their quality of life.
About the Author
Jackie Baumgartner is currently a third-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy student from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. She is currently completing her doctoral capstone at Sparling Construction/GoUniversal. Jackie will be graduating in the spring of 2021 and plans to begin her career as a traveling therapist with her husband. She is very excited to provide you with information regarding different topics about home modifications, disabilities, and ways to make your home more accessible.
Hamilton, B.E., Martin, J. A., Osterman, M. J. K., & Rossen, L. M. (2019). Births: Provisional data for 2018. (National Vital Statistics Reports, No. 007). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/vsrr-007-508.pdf
Lapsley, H., Kerse, N., Moyes, S. A., Keeling, S., Muru-Lanning, M. L., Wiles, J., & Jatrana, S. (2020). Do household living arrangements explain gender and ethnicity differences in receipt of support services? Findings from LiLACS NZ Māori and non-Māori advanced age cohorts. Ageing & Society, 40(5), 1004–1020. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X18001514
Musil, C., Warner, C., Zauszniewski, J., Wykle, M., & Standing, T. (2009). Grandmother caregiving, family stress and strain, and depressive symptoms. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 31(3), 389–408. doi: 10.1177/0193945908328262
Musil, C. M., & Standing, T. (2005). Grandmothers’ diaries: A glimpse at daily lives. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 60(4), 317–329. doi: 10.2190/lf1u-ja0x-w7f9- 341k
Nelson, H. L., & Nelson, J. L. (1998). Care at home: Virtue in multigenerational households. Generations, 22(3), 52–57.
Pilkauskas, N. V., Amorim, M., & Dunifon, R. E. (2020). Historical trends in children living in multigenerational households in the United States: 1870–2018. Demography, 57(6), 2269–2296. doi: 10.1007/s13524-020-00920-5
Vlachantoni, A., Shaw, R. J., Evandrou, M., & Falkingham, J. (2015). The determinants of receiving social care in later life in England. Ageing & Society, 35(2), 321–345. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X1300072X