Skip to main content
Rural Health Information Hub

Multigenerational Approach

The multigenerational approach to alleviating poverty through services integration focuses on addressing the needs of the whole family. Programs with this aim may also be referred to as taking a “whole family” approach. This model is also commonly referred to as the two-generation approach. Several organizations and foundations, including The Aspen Institute and The Annie E. Casey Foundation have been advocating for the use of a multigenerational approach to alleviate poverty.

The multigenerational model integrates child-focused services, parent and caregiver services, and adult-focused services. Services for children often aim to improve school readiness, while services for adults target economic assets such as housing, job readiness, and health and well-being. Other services may include child and family social groups, support services for caregivers, and respite services.

A key component of this model involves providing educational resources to adults and children, which can help a parent or caregiver offer a more economically stable environment for the child. Multigenerational approaches can also focus on developing social capital to help families out of poverty. Participants of multigenerational programs can build social capital through participation in the community and social networks and by making connections with family, friends, and neighbors. Many multigenerational programs also help connect families to economic supports, such as:

  • Housing
  • Student financial aid
  • Health insurance
  • Food assistance
  • Other public and private resources

The Rural Impact initiative is using a multigenerational approach to invest resources in rural communities. Rural Impact will focus on designing innovative program delivery, raising awareness of rural child poverty, and improving access to high-quality child care, early learning, and continuing education. A major aspect of this program will involve a new technical assistance demonstration initiative called Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive (IMPACT) Demonstration.

Examples of Rural Programs using a Multigenerational Approach

  • The Lake County Tribal Health Consortium (LCTHC) manages a Tribal Preschool where children receive school-readiness services and parents can participate in parenting and support programs such as a substance use recovery group. While LCTHC originally planned to implement a home visiting program that would provide early childhood resources to children and supportive service to parents, parents in the community asked the clinic to deliver services in group settings instead. In response to these requests, LCTHC developed the preschool program and now offers group classes to parents during school hours.
  • Grundy County, Tennessee is increasing access to health and wellness by utilizing a social-capital approach. Specifically, this rural community is adapting and implementing the New Haven's MOMS Partnership, a community network for mothers that brings together organizations that provide community resources for both adults and children. The MOMS Partnership provides interventions that reduce the toxic stress experienced by children and families with low incomes.
  • Head Start, a federal program of the Administration for Children and Families, promotes family well-being through a multigenerational approach. The program provides early learning and health services to children from birth to age five. Parents often receive parenting education and referrals to social and health services. There are two types of Head Start services that can be offered by a community. Early Head Start serves pregnant women, babies, and toddlers up to the age of three, while Head Start serves children ages three to five years old. Not all communities will have funding to provide both Head Start and Early Head Start. The National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services prepared a policy brief on the challenges of implementing Head Start and early childhood development programs in rural communities.

Considerations for Implementation

Since this model aims to serve the whole family, programs should be sure that they include activities that address the needs of the family as a whole, or include aspects that address the needs of both children and adults together. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has published a working paper on the importance of maternal mental health on child health outcomes. This paper discusses the challenges that mental health plays in the multigenerational approach, specifically the role of maternal depression on children's health and developmental outcomes. Maternal depression can have lasting harmful effects on a child's cognitive, social, and emotional development, making behavioral health a key component to consider in this model.

Resources to Learn More

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Young Families
This report features case studies of two-generation programs, describes elements associated with successful outcomes, and recommends future work.
Organization(s): National Human Services Assembly
Date: 12/2013

The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework
The framework provides programs with a research based, organizational guide for implementing relevant Head Start Program Performance Standards.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families
Date: 8/2011

Two-Generation Playbook
An overview of the main components of a two-generation approach and the importance of a multi-faceted approach to alleviating child poverty.
Organization(s): Ascend at the Aspen Institute