Multigenerational social support in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic

Megan Gilligan, J. Jill Suitor, Marissa Rurka, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Research documents high levels of instrumental, financial, and expressive support exchanges within multigenerational families in the 21st century. The COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges to support exchanges between the generations; however, the pandemic may provide opportunities for greater solidarity within families. In this review, we draw from theoretical perspectives that have been used to study family relationships to understand the implications of the pandemic for multigenerational families: the life course perspective, the intergenerational solidarity model, and rational choice/social exchange theory. We review literature on multigenerational relationships in the United States and discuss how established social support patterns and processes may be altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. We reflect on how the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on multigenerational relationships may vary by gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Finally, we provide directions for future researchers to pursue in order to understand the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on multigenerational ties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-447
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Family Theory and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • aging
  • caregiving
  • extended families
  • family and aging
  • gerontology
  • intergenerational relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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