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Mother Carrying Her Daughter

Two-Gen Approach

Focusing on child and parent together creates lasting change

What is the two-generation approach

Two-generation (Two-Gen) approaches build family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives together.

Video and information on this page is from the Ascend Institute


Why use the two-generation approach

We have found through engaging with families that the well-being of parents is crucial to their children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being. And at the same time, parents’ ability to succeed in school and the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. By acknowledging this connection, we are increasing our effectiveness and the ability of families to move themselves from poverty to opportunity. 

By generating a legacy of family well-being that passes from one generation to the next, two-gen helps communities become stronger and more vibrant, socially and economically.

Key components of the two-generation approach

Kids in Art Class

Early Childhood Education

Each year of high-quality early childhood education produces a 13 percent return on investment in that child’s future earnings.


That’s why Two-Gen efforts strive to ensure that all services and programs for young children – including childcare, Head Start, home visits, K-12 education, and activities with their parents and guardians – include state-of-the-art content and meet proven high-quality standards.

home keys

Economic Assets

A $3,000 difference in parents’ income when their child is young is associated with a 17 percent increase in the child’s future earnings. A relatively small increase in household income can have a significant, lasting positive impact on the life of a child. 


Striving families with low incomes face daunting costs for housing, transportation, education, food, health care – and more. Two-generation approaches help parents increase economic security and income by helping them reduce costs, access available financial assistance, and build assets over time.

Kids Doctor Checkup

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Health has a major impact on a family’s ability to thrive.


If a child is unwell, it can affect attendance and learning in school. A parent’s illness can affect their ability to earn or perform at work – and to be the good parents they want to be. Moreover, research shows children experience spectacular brain development in their early years, and that new parents undergo major brain structure changes just as babies do.


Steady emotional development – and the treatment of any trauma or stress throughout family life – are critical to ensuring families get off to a good start and progress.


Postsecondary & Employment Pathways

Education boosts family well-being. A parent’s educational level is a strong predictor of a child’s success. Parents who complete a college degree double their lifetime incomes, adding to the financial security of their families.


Two-generation approaches help parents and adult caregivers achieve education milestones and training certifications that lead to better jobs and careers.

Support Group

Social Capital

To get ahead in life, both adults and children need helpful connections to people and information – and need opportunities to both give and receive support.


Building a family’s “social capital” network is a key component in a successful Two-Gen approach. Years of research have shown that social capital connections produce for both families and community – as peer support, stronger neighborhoods, more participation in community and faith-based organizations, and school and workplace advances.

Two-gen model from Ascend
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