Under one roof: A review of research on intergenerational coresidence and multigenerational households in the United States

Document Type



What motivates adult children, parents, and even grandchildren to live together? To answer this question, we review the sociological and social gerontological research on multigenerational households and families. We first provide a snapshot of multigenerational coresidence in the US and then discuss the primary theoretical perspectives used to explain these patterns: exchange theory, altruism, and norms and obligations. Structural conditions including economic crises tend to facilitate adult children moving in with parents (often with dependent children in tow), while spousal loss and declining health act as catalysts for parents moving in with adult children. Furthermore, economic struggles often facilitate the formation of grandparent-headed families where the middle generation parents may or may not be present. We suggest that the current economic recession and housing crises will have profound effects on multigenerational households and may also encourage more coresidence. Changes in social welfare policies, increases in coresident grandparenting, and changes in the racial and ethnic composition of the US also have implications for multigenerational households’ economic and social security.


Extended families; Families; Households; Housing; Intergenerational relations; United States


Family, Life Course, and Society | Sociology


Use Find in Your Library, contact the author, or use interlibrary loan to garner a copy of the article. Publisher copyright policy allows author to archive post-print (author’s final manuscript). When post-print is available or publisher policy changes, the article will be deposited

Publisher Citation

Keene, J. R. and Batson, C. D. (2010), Under One Roof: A Review of Research on Intergenerational Coresidence and Multigenerational Households in the United States. Sociology Compass, 4: 642–657. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00306.x

UNLV article access

Search your library