When the kids reach adulthood, they will establish their own independent nuclear habitations.
We tend to see any deviation from that pattern as an unfortunate aberration, whether it’s the cohabitation of elderly grandparents who can no longer live independently or young-adult children experiencing a “failure to launch,” stuck in the basement.
This made neighborhoods less walkable — and thus less friendly to the youngest and oldest — and moved families farther apart.
Parents good dating rules
And the demise of multigenerational households appears to have been less about shifting preferences than historical and political changes.
Most of the collapse in multigenerational arrangements took place in the four decades after World War II, when unique circumstances combined to transform the patterns of everyday American life.
That such “accessory units” will probably be occupied by people at a different stage of life or income level than the owners of the surrounding houses is seen as a threat to neighborhood stability and home values, rather than an opportunity.
Neighbors and planners complain about the potential of such units to degrade an area’s single-family character, to induce unsightly crowding or to overwhelm street parking, even though none of these concerns have sound empirical foundations.
The construction industry, which had been constrained by wartime supply rationing, was now encouraged by Federal Housing Administration programs and others that offered unprecedented subsidies and new, government-guaranteed 30-year fixed mortgages for single-family homes.
With a booming economy, Social Security in place and Medicare soon to come, Americans had incentives to follow an unusual pattern of generational segregation.
As Ruggles reflects, “Material conditions, family behavior, and attitudes were changing simultaneously, and it is likely that the changes were mutually reinforcing.” Multigenerational living reached its nadir in 1980, when only 15 percent of older Americans lived with their children, and only 12 percent of households overall contained multiple adult generations.
In the postwar years, new local ordinances also reinforced nuclear-family households.
Those sentiments flow from the peculiar history of postwar America, when nuclear-family households became the norm in spite of, well, everything.
Throughout the 20th century, several scholars claimed that nuclear households had been the historical standard, pre-dating postwar America.
And historical data suggests that the wholly independent nuclear-family household may be the aberration — that patterns of close familial support are the more natural arrangement.