The Multigenerational Experience

This past week, I went to a sporting event with my 83-year-old father, my sister and her partner, a middle aged family friend, and my 5-year-old son. This social event was not new in the sense that we see each other every week for lunch. It was new in that, in all these years, we had not gone out together to an event. There was a feeling of connectedness that swept through me that was unique – as though going out highlighted a span of generations which in turn created a feeling of timelessness and interconnectedness.

Interestingly, the White House, for the first time in many years, has a multi-generational family living within it. Barack and Michelle Obama have their two young children, and their grandmother, living with them in the White House. Related or unrelated groups of people sharing the same household has led to the term post-modern family. Within this diverse set of household arrangements, the multi-generational family has also had a resurgence. It is estimated that approximately 4 million U.S. households are considered to be multi-generational in nature (i.e., 3 or more generations) and that this will grow given the fact of aging parents and diminishing public resources. My experience this week pointed to some of the psychological benefits of multi-generational experiences. The negative aspects of this are well known and are reflected in the persistence of ‘mother-in-law’ jokes. At the same time, intergenerational conflicts are likely to decline whether out of the necessity born of economic realities or from the fact that a new consensus is revealing itself with respect to tolerance and acceptance of sexual orientation, women’s rights, or the strengths of a multicultural-multiracial society.

What have your multi-generational experiences taught you? Do you fear the complications and conflicts that can occur? Have you considered the positive aspects of these experiences?

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