Two-generation (2Gen) approaches build family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives together.
The 2Gen mindset and model recognizes whole family units, as families define themselves, and meaningfully engages parents and caregivers in designing policies and programs that affect them. By working with families to solve problems, access new resources, and sharpen existing talents and skills, the 2Gen approach creates experiences and opportunities for all families to reach their full potential and for communities to thrive economically and socially.
Many programs focus solely on the child or the parent. The 2Gen approach does not focus exclusively on either children or adults because their well-being is directly interconnected. Instead, it takes stock of the family as a whole and uses a holistic, family-centered lens to understand the multiple dimensions of families and consider a variety of pathways for promoting positive outcomes.
The above graphic illustrates these characteristics along a continuum and demonstrates 2Gen’s aim to integrate services and supports to move the whole family forward. 2Gen approaches, also known as “whole-family,” can equally benefit the child and the adults in their lives or they can have primary and secondary focuses:
- Child-parent approaches focus first or primarily on the child but are moving toward a two-generation approach and 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 include services and opportunities for children.
Over the course of its development, the “two-generation” or “2Gen” approach has been referred to by many names – “whole family,” “intergenerational,” “multigenerational,” “multi-gen” – which all carry the same meaning.
The Six Key Components of Two-Generation Approaches
Well-being includes financial, social, mental, and spiritual aspects, and it requires multiple materials, conditions, and systems to be coordinated. The 2Gen approach has a robust vision for family well-being and has identified the essential experiences, supports, and resources that are necessary for families to survive and thrive:
- Social Capital – connections to people, information, and opportunities to give and receive support
- Early Childhood Education and Development
- K-12 Education
- Postsecondary Education and Employment Pathways – access to quality education and clear career pathways
- Economic Assets – financial stability
- Health and Well-Being – access to health care and mental, physical, and behavior health improving opportunities
- Investments in high-quality early education yield a 13 percent per year return on investment based on increased school and career achievement as well as reduced social costs.
- At the same time, parents who complete a college degree double their incomes. A parent’s level of educational attainment is also a strong predictor of a child’s success.
- 2Gen education programs and policies include postsecondary education and employment pathways; early childhood development programs, like child care, Head Start, and home visiting; family literacy; and K-12 education.
Return on Investment: High-Quality Early Education
2Gen Resources on Education:
- Gateways to Two Generations: The Potential for Early Childhood Programs and Partnerships to Support Children and Parents Together
- Starting Strong: Policy Ideas for Quality Child Care and Early Childhood Development
- Children and Families at the Center (report)
- The Elephant in the Clinic: Early Literacy and Family Well-Being
- A $3,000 difference in parents’ income when their child is young is associated with a 17 percent increase in the child’s future earnings. A relatively small increase in household income can have a significant, lasting positive impact on the life of a child.
- Nevertheless, almost half of all children in the United States belong to families with low incomes. Almost three-fourths of single-mother families with children are low-income. Poverty alleviation is dependent on families’ abilities to successfully manage financial setbacks and build economic security. Children with as little as $499 in an account designated for college are more likely to enroll and graduate. Even small dollar amounts help children see a college education as a possibility.
- Economic assets include housing, transportation, financial education and asset building, tax credits, student financial aid, nutrition assistance, and more.
2Gen Resources on Economic Assets
- If a child is unwell, it can affect attendance and learning in school, and a parent’s illness can impact ability to earn or perform at work. Physical health and mental health, a component of the two-generation approach, have a major impact on a family’s ability to thrive
- Childhood trauma, for instance, has lasting health and social consequences. Similarly, economic supports, such as housing, and social capital, such as connections to one’s neighborhood and community, are important social determinants of health. The dynamics of federal and state health care access policies through Medicaid are critical factors in identifying barriers and opportunities for increasing the health and well-being of children and their parents.
2Gen Resources on Health & Well-being:
- Social capital is a key success factor of the two-generation approach. Many years of research has shown that social capital manifests as peer support; contact with family, friends, and neighbors; participation in community and faith-based organizations; school and workplace contacts; leadership and empowerment programs; use of case managers or career coaches; social networks, such as cohort models and learning communities; and mental health services.
- Social capital builds on the strength and resilience of families, bolstering the aspirations parents have for their children and for themselves. It is a powerful component in programs that help move families beyond poverty.
2Gen Resources on Social Capital