Two generations. One future.

The Two-Generation Approach

What Is a Two-Generation Approach?

Two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both vulnerable children and their parents together.

Two-generation approaches can be found along a continuum.  This graphic illustrates the starting point (parent or child) and the relative emphasis.  Whole-family approaches focus equally and intentionally on services and opportunities for the parent and the child.  Child-parent approaches focus first or primarily on the child but are moving toward a two-generation approach and also include services and opportunities for the parent.  Parent-child approaches focus first or primarily on the parent but are moving toward a two-generation approach and also include services and opportunities for children:

To learn more about the components of the two-generation approach, please see our Two-Generation Playbook

There are four key components of the two-generation approach: Education, Economic Supports, Health and Well-Being, and Social Capital.

How Do We Apply Two-Generation Approaches?

Two-generation approaches can be applied to programs, policies, systems, and research.

Programs: Two-generation programs provide opportunities for and meet the needs of parents and their children together.  Spanning the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, two-generation programs exist along the continuum and range from established to emerging organizations.  To learn more about these programs, visit the Ascend Network comprised of two cohorts of Ascend Fellows, and 58 organizations that represent the leading edge of a national movement around two-generation approaches. .

Policies:  Federal and state policymakers can pursue ten effective policies immediately to help parents and children break out of the cycle of poverty. Top Ten for 2-Gen outlines six principles and ten specific policies to guide the design and use of two-generation approaches. These policy recommendations that support two-generations together span early education, post-secondary education, economic assets and health and well-being. They are informed by a growing field of innovative practitioners and policymakers. The policies work within the existing legislative and funding landscape rather than seeking new funding or legislation. 

Systems: Two-generation approaches can be applied to systems — formal (e.g., a municipal public housing authority, a statewide community college system) or informal (e.g., the patchwork of early childhood education funding streams that exists in many states).  These systems may be loosely configured or more integrated depending upon the state or community.

Research: A strong body of academic research is needed to build an evidence base that shows what works best for whom and to undergird effective policies, programs, and system change.  To learn more about the established and emerging two-generation research, visit the Resources section.