The US population living in multigenerational households has quadrupled in the last 50 years, and that growth shows no signs of slowing.
Multigenerational family living is growing among nearly all US racial groups, particularly Hispanics. Multigenerational households come with great benefits, such as financial security and in-home childcare. However, more people in the home means parents must be extra vigilant in setting boundaries and monitoring child safety.
What are multigenerational households?
Multigenerational households refer to homes that include two or more adult generations living together under one roof. These generations are often related, but this is not always the case. There are many ways in which multigenerational households can be made up, but the most common structures include three-generation, grandfamilies, two adult generations, and four-generations.
Three-generation is the most common multigenerational household arrangement that consists of three generations – typically one or more working-age adults, one or more of their children (who may also be adults), and either aging parent(s) or grandchildren.
Grandfamilies are households headed by an older individual or couple who live with grandchildren under age 18.
Two adult generations typically consist of parent(s) and child(ren) under the ages of 18 to 22. However, this also includes parents moving in with adult children.
Four (or more)-generation include parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, adult children, their children.
Child safety for households.
Though there are many benefits to multigenerational living, there is also an increased risk to child safety. This risk is not inherently about the motives of those around your child, as parents living in such households often have a great deal of trust in those with whom they choose to live. The greater risks are related to the habits and feelings children are exposed to as a result of multigenerational living.
In many households, Hispanic households in particular, there is a great tradition and expectation of respect for elders. Children are often expected to do as they’re told and trust that the adults in their life know best. This makes children more vulnerable to abuse both inside and outside the household. Shockingly, 90% of children who are victims of abuse know their abuser and 60% of children who are abused are abused by someone the family trusts. It is important to teach children that respect is important, unless there is a risk to the child’s boundaries, safety, and/or wellbeing. Similarly, it is important to listen and trust what your child says – even if it casts doubt on a trusted adult.
Despite living with many individuals, children in multigenerational households may also experience loneliness. With many people in one house, it is easy for a child to feel overlooked or under-appreciated. Loneliness can negatively impact mental health, but it can also make a child more vulnerable to abuse. Children may seek support elsewhere and an abuser could take advantage. To overcome this risk, children need to know that their parents care and will listen to them no matter what. Carving out some time every day to spend time and talk to your child will help them feel loved and safe.