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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

Young Adults More Likely to Live With Parents

Young adults boomeranged back into their parents’ homes with increased frequency in recent years. The Pew Research Center said in a March 15 report that the so-called “boomerang generation” represents “part of a broader trend toward multigenerational living” in America.

The number of multigenerational households rose after 1980. But with the recent recession, young adults coping with realities like unemployment or diminished wages contributed to a spike in that number by moving back home.

Naturally, the return home of young adults after college or a few years in the work force has complex effects, which various social commentators highlight. For example:

— Sometimes a young adult’s parents must readjust expectations, already having started the transition into an empty-nester lifestyle.

— Young people themselves confront confounding questions – about what roles to play back home or how to prepare for their future in a changing world.

— When young adults and their parents again live under the same roof, the very shape of their relationship could become an issue. No longer is theirs an adult-child relationship. It is an adult-adult relationship.

Susan Vogt’s “Parenting Your Adult Child” (St. Anthony, 2011) noted that parents of adult children may find themselves asking how to assist “in life decisions without taking over,” as well as when to rescue a child and when to allow a child to falter.

There also are bound to be concerns in multigenerational settings related to costs of living and sharing household work.

Better Than Expected

With concerns like those in mind, the boomerang generation’s return home might appear lamentable. But according to the Pew Research Center’s report, this is a happier phenomenon than many suspected it could become.

“Parents who say their adult children have moved back in with them are just as satisfied with their family life and housing situation as are those parents whose adult children have not moved back home,” the Pew center notes. It adds:

“The same can be said of the adult children. Fully 68 percent of young adults ages 18 to 34 who are living with their parents or moved back in temporarily because of economic conditions say they are very satisfied with their family life.”

A survey the Pew Center conducted at the end of 2011 “found that among all adults ages 18 to 34, 24 percent moved back in with their parents in recent years, after living on their own, because of economic conditions.”

The Center comments that the “economic upheaval” of the times “appears to be giving rise to a protracted set of economic ties between parents and their adult children.”

However, it says, “if there’s supposed to be a stigma attached to living with mom and dad through one’s late 20s or early 30s, today’s ‘boomerang generation’ didn’t get that memo.”

Notably, among the nearly “three in 10 young adults ages 25 to 34” who lived at home “during the rough economy of recent years,” large majorities said they were “satisfied with their living arrangements (78 percent) and upbeat about their future finances (77 percent).”

How young adults feel about these living arrangements may be influenced by the large number of their peers who found themselves in precisely the same situation, the report suggests. Some 70 percent of young adults living with their parents had “a friend or family member who moved back home in recent years.”

Shared Benefits

The Pew Center indicated that young adults living at home aid their parents in certain ways. Of the young adults the center surveyed, nearly all said “they do chores around their parents’ house.” Moreover, 75 percent said “they contribute to household expenses such as groceries or utility bills,” and a little more than one-third said they “pay rent to their parents.”

Overall, the Pew findings suggested that the effect of moving back home “is more positive than negative” for young adults. Only 18 percent said the move “has been bad for their relationship with their parents.”

I suppose the boomerang generation helps to confirm the rising age at which young Americans now are expected to be out and living on their own. Some commentators also think the trend toward marrying at older ages is a factor in the boomerang generation’s expansion.

Again, many young people decide in their mid-20s to pursue advanced studies to improve their life prospects. Living at home may be a lifeline for them and a way their parents can aid their education by providing room and board.

Many wondered in the boomerang generation’s first days whether it would prove to be more to the bad than to the good — a sign of excessive anxieties and fears of the world among America’s young adults, and an unanticipated source of stress to their parents. The Pew report suggests, however, that parents and their boomeranging young-adult children are handling things rather well.

About the author 
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.