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Measuring the Impacts of Multi-Generational Family Supports

Demographic shifts in America have changed family structures and have altered the flow of dependency between generations. Many Americans in middle age find themselves supporting both children and aging parents. Many older Americans are now the primary guardians for their grandchildren. Rather than a linear model of older generations caring for younger ones, modern families often resemble more of a net: where supports move between all generations inter-dependently. An increasing amount of data lends credence to the anecdotal evidence we can all see throughout our communities.
 
The Alliance for Children and Families, in partnership with Generations United and coinciding with the United Nations International Day of the Family, recently released a report, “Intergenerational Family Connections: The Relationships that Support a Strong America,” to try and assess what some of these connections look like. The report is part of "Committing to Our Families," a signature series on the state of families from the journal Families in Society at the Alliance for Children and Families.
 
The Alliance and Generations United surveyed more than 2,000 adults about their intergenerational family bonds across age, income levels, and distance. Findings show that family members are highly dependent on each other and give their time and financial resources in many crucial ways including basic needs, health care, education, and child care. Having a dependable support system helps families to foster resilience and the ability to better manage various traumas and life challenges.
 
The survey results suggest some interesting findings—including the tendency for family connectedness to increase with income, and variations in family connectedness across different racial and ethnic groups—that warrant further study. This Alliance and GU survey, and similar research, serve as a starting point for a discussion about how we adjust public policies to meet the needs of modern families. As the United Nations states, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” As demographics change, society must adapt to meet the new needs of modern families.

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Blog | by Dr. Radut