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Boomerang Kids

Here in America, there is a relatively new movement called Boomerang Kids, where young adults leave home for work or school and then return to live with their parents. This is a real departure from the cultural norms of even ten years ago, and so I’m fascinated by the change back toward multi-generational households.

A quick google search will reveal many articles on the topic, but here is a link to a Pew report published last month that give a great overview of the trend as well as some really interesting statistics: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/03/PewSocialTrends-2012-BoomerangGeneration.pdf

So, I’m curious to know what you all think about:

  1. The long term effects of young adults delaying their move out of their parents homes. What does this mean for the adult children and for the parents?
  2. The reasons why this is happening? Is it only a function of the current economy or is there something more at play? Will this trend continue?
  3. How this is similar or different to other cultures/countries represented in the class
  4. How this movement is affecting the economy (ie. fewer households, discretionary income, debt, etc)?

Looking forward to hearing all of your perspectives and insights!

Kristina

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12 Comments

  1. Boon Han says:

    I recall a short conversation we had in class about adult children staying with their parents and someone remarked that they would never date a “loser” like that…

    In my country, it is actually quite a norm for adult children to stay with their parents until they get married. Probably because of the size of the country, you probably can’t say that you need to stay in another state or city because you found work there or something. Housing costs and housing policies probably plays a big part in Singapore as well as apartments are really expensive and you are only eligible for subsidized apartments from the government if you are married.

    At this point, I need to confess that I am one of the Boomerang Kid that you are referring to.

    I stayed with my parents all the way until I got married, bought my own apartment and moved out. My wife and I enjoyed our independence and privacy for 5 years. When we had our kid, I decided that we should move back to my parents place as we both worked full-time and I didn’t want my son to be left in the care of a stranger while we were at work. My parents are retired and they are more than happy to help with the grandkids. So we rented out our apartment and moved back with my parents. I felt that it is extremely important for a child to grow up in an environment in the company of adults who would instill the right values and discipline in the child.

    Initially, I was a little apprehensive about whether my parents will interfere in our lives and if my wife could get along with my parents. Fortunately, my parents gave us plenty of space and things worked out well.

    Also, in Chinese culture, there is an expectation for adult children to stay with their elderly parents to take care of them in their twilight years. In fact, children who did not do so or sent their parents to nursing homes are perceived as unfilial.

    • Kristina Coppola says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective Boon. I think one of the most compelling arguments in favor of multi-generational living arrangements is the ability to have your parents help care for your children while you and your spouse/partner work full time. My mother in law watches our kids while we work, and there is absolutely a measure of comfort (and flexibility for late nights!) that comes from having family and not a daycare facility caring for them. I think one of the complicating things from my perspective here in America is that many of our generation’s parents won’t be retiring for many years still, long past the time when our children are small.

      As for caring for your parents when they are elderly, I think there is still a strong sense here that you need to take care of them. My family and many friend’s families have grandparents living with them, across the street from them, etc. But, even still, the level of involvement expected by the aging parents is likely different. For instance, my grandparents want to remain as independent as possible without my parents help (my parents have to sometimes force their help when its obviously needed).

      I think what you said about your parents giving you and your wife the space to live your own life is a key to the whole situation, and I think that this ties back nicely to the discussions we had about the differences between parenting styles in different cultures.

  2. sonigreca says:

    It’s fascinating to see the U.S. now have this phenomenon. Like Boo Han said, In China, children are expected to stay with parents. Things are changing a little bit in China, Some people are leaving home to other cities to study and work. But for people from the city it’s hard for them to move out. In general, parents take care of the kids until they go to college. If they didn’t get a job, they still get money from parents. If they got a job, the make money, marry, and then when parents turn old they take care of them.

    I Beijing, many of my friends are getting married. But I heard them are still living with parents. First, it’s closer to their work because housing are expensive, if you buy an affordable place in Beijing it’s so far from the city. Second, even some of the bought a new house, but because it’s far, they rather rent the house to other people to make money.

    I don’t really know the fact in the U.S. But in China, I think leaving with parents when children become adults is not good for parents and kids relations. Parents would always think they are the adults and their children are always children, however, the children think they are adults already.

    • Kristina Coppola says:

      Thanks Sonia. I’m so glad you raised the aspect of married friends (presumably without young kids; not having been on their own before) continuing to live with parents. I had several friends do this after graduating from college, and admittedly, I was really confused by it. To me being “poor” (b/c of expensive rent and low wages) and having an inconvenient lifestyle (long commute) are worth every second of my independence.

      It sounds like in Bejing its driven mostly by economic and convenience/lifestyle concerns. Do you think that if inflation were to lessen and wages caught up with housing prices this would still be the case? Do young people want to leave home, but can’t or would it be social unacceptable to move out as a young unmarried adult?

      I think you hit upon a really important cultural key, and that is the problems that can arise when parents think about themselves and their children one way and the think differently.

      Many parent here in the US really look forward to having adult children that move out of the house and establish their own household; it means fewer financial obligations and perhaps the ability to finally save more money for retirement. It means that their oversight responsibilities can be less, and perhaps they can spend a little more time on their own interests. I’m curious to see the impacts of the US Boomerang trend on parents and not just the kids, since according to the polls, the kids see this as a good thing. Do the parents?

  3. Alex says:

    This is certainly an interesting topic in the U.S. which is influenced by many factors. I think that it may be an economic issue as well as be affected by changes in family structure and values. My immediate thought of my friends who are young adults is credit card debt. I hear time and time again that the reason preventing some of my friends from moving out on their own is that they have substantial credit card debt (whether it was from reckless spending or something needed, like college bills).

    When I finished my undergraduate education, I went back home to live with my parents and work at my old job. I had no idea how long I would be there, and thought once I found a good job, I would move away. However, due to the economic recession, I did not find a job in my field. So I ended up moving away to go to grad school. Rather than making a long commute from my parents’ house, I opted to move to Boston to be closer to school, and to be immersed in educational, cultural, and professional opportunities. Some people have asked me, now that I am finishing graduate school, if I am moving “back home,” which I think is kind of weird, because I did not see my move as something temporary. When I did leave for grad school, I had the intention of moving out as an adult at that point. I had not even considered that I might go back there after grad school, and it got me thinking whether that may be a feasible option, really just in order to save money. A friend of mine, who recently got a master’s degree, moved back “home” and got a job near there, and lives with her mom. I believe she does not pay rent, so she is able to make substantially large payments back on her student loans. I do not plan to move back “home” at any point in the near future, mainly because the environment there is not conducive for the social or professional life of a young adult.

    I also think that housing trends may have something to do with this in the U.S. For instance, in the town my Mom’s family was originally from in Pennsylvania, there is a single street we can go to, and go up and down the street and visit all of her relatives, who own houses in the same neighborhood. I think there have been changes in migration patterns in recent decades, perhaps due to people everywhere dispersing for different reasons rather than being complacent with where they are “from.” Having entire families situated in a single neighborhood is no longer realistic. To over-generalize my point here – if a young family decides they want help from grandparents with child care, it’s not longer as simple as moving into the house next door, because the housing market is competitive, so they join the same household.

    • Kristina Coppola says:

      Interesting perspective Alex. I think one thing that is important to remember in this conversation, as you reminded us, is that there doesn’t seem to be one particular reason why this trend is happening (we all have different stories).

      I think its really interesting that people are asking you if you’re moving back to your parent’s house, rather than asking you about finding roommates, jobs, etc. I also think your comment, “I had the intention of moving out as an adult at that point” is really interesting. Has your opinion of yourself as an adult changed since you’ve moved out of your parents house? Do you expect it will change again once you’re done with grad school?

      I agree that housing is certainly an interesting component of the “boomerang kids” story. For people who’s parents have been able to purchase a nice home in a nice area, I think its particularly challenging. I think you’re right on when you talk about families “dispersing” across the country, although I will say, I think that is also partially driven by the social norms of where you live within the US. For instance, I am from Michigan, where it is completely understandable and even expected that you will leave to find work elsewhere. However, since moving to New England, it seems like people who have grown up here, stay here (within the MA, RI, CT, VT, ME area).

      I think that given the delay we’re seeing in people getting married and having children and the increasing financial burden of education, young people are less interested in owning a house or even moving away from the convenience of their parent’s house.

      I’ve had some friends who got married young, bought a big house right away so they had room for kids. When they had their first baby, they realized that taking care of a house and a baby was taking up too much time and money, so they sold and went back to renting.

  4. tjglover23 says:

    I personally am not a fan of boomerang children. I have friends and family who live at home with mom and dad and the children that i see become content in their situation or if not content they do not have the same drive and passions to really look for that job and sacrifice to get ahead because they have the comforts of home. I am not saying this is all of them but it is for some.

    Also, I don’t like it because though parents may not be saying this they did not raise us so that we would continue to live with them. They had a life before us and hoped to have a life after when we as their children moved out. Parents deserve alone time and quite time to be in their homes that they worked hard for and enjoy it without there adult child asking about diner. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
    I understand if you have to move home for a minute to regroup but to just be at home chillin just because you know your parents wont kick you out is a mess.

    The reason some are living at home is valid and I am sure it works for that family. The reason others may be living at home is because they are lazy or scared to get out on their own. Or they could not handle the blows of life, which is another conversation in and of it self. I think that boomerang children are there for many reasons and have many different circumstances surrounding that life in which they are living. But to study it as if it is a culturally approved trend just does not sit right with me.

  5. grabernieto says:

    This a very interesting and current topic, so thanks for bringing it up to our class attention. I must say this phenomenon might be strange to American society, but is not strange were I come from. In Ecuador, children live with their parents all through their marriage and in some cases while they are married. I have cousins that have gotten married and then share same house with their parents. However, this common trend is slowly changing mostly among women, who are more independent than ever before and finding new places to live and work on their own. I personally hate the idea of living with parents, I am an independent spirited person and so I go against much of what my culture has dictated to multiple generations in the past. So from an outside cultural perspective boomerang kids are common and an ingrained in the culture. For American society is a new trend fueled by economic uncertainty that has plagued our generation. Another, point to notice about this trend is that in Ecuador most children they are not taught about taking care of home or themselves for that matter, there is always someone doing things for them. Myself a great example, I never dealt with cleaning or cooking or any labor for that matter, I only learn how to take care of the home and myself once I left the nest and achieved truly independence. So for another factor to consider, is that there is the possibility that American society and culture is some how responsible for upbringing individuals who dont have a sense of independence. Upbringing and economic reasons, I think are ultimately responsible for this trend. Lastly, I think has consequences for our society, children are less independent less capable of carrying their lives and becoming leaders in our worldly society. Future generations are only going to become more accustomed to this trend and is one that will become common in the future.

  6. Laura Chechette says:

    I lived at school for all four years of undergrad (coming home for the summers) and did a year of service after graduation, but when I finished for about a year and a half I was a boomerang kid who moved back in with my parents. The plan originally was that it would be temporary just until I found a job in Boston. But that job never came and instead I found a job close to home. While I technically was making enough money to rent out my own apartment I chose to live at home so that I could save money to eventually move to Boston and go to grad school. I I think that this trend will continue even if the economy improves because I think with the younger generation there are many more “helicopter parents” who want their kids to come home again and don’t mind taking care of them. When I moved home again even though I wasn’t paying rent I was helping out in others ways that I didn’t earlier. For example buying groceries, making dinner, doing the laundry. (I always did these things for myself, but now I was doing it for my parents as well.) I think the boomerang kids will have a negative impact on the economy because there is less money going into. Boomerang kids will spend their small disposable income on smaller items and not mortgages and cars which are big purchases that help the economy.

  7. andreslmc says:

    1. I think that this simply allows parents and their children to make more decisions as a family rather than as individual households. That is not to say that parents and their children care less about each other when they live apart, however, living together and having shared experiences, allows such households to make more family oriented decisions where each member has a greater stake in the decision making process.

    2. I think this is definitely a function of the current economic climate. Nevertheless, I also think that this is more than a trend. This cultural shift shows that the value that was once was given to moving far away for a college education, buying a home, and moving to a new job market has changed as people are reevaluating their priorities.

    3. I think that this movement is helping the economy as it is giving young people a social safety net that does not require government involvement and the use of public funds. I think that this movement is also showing that households truly are the backbone of an economy. Consumer confidence as well as a savings rate is a value and practice that is established in the household.

  8. meredithmckenna says:

    The long term effects of young adults delaying their move out of their parents homes. What does this mean for the adult children and for the parents?

    I think that in the U.S, it is not an ideal situation. I think that a pro-longed living situation strains the relationship between parent and child, and this is partly because young adults here have the urge for complete independence. I know that when I am finished with grad school, and if I don’t find a job, I may have to live home.. and I can’t stand the idea (I really love my parents, but I value my space!).

    The reasons why this is happening? Is it only a function of the current economy or is there something more at play? Will this trend continue?

    I think that this trend is definitely related to the economy. My friends who are living at home are doing so in order to save money so they can eventually live on their own, I don’t have one friend (who has graduated college) who is voluntarily living at home. I do not think that this trend will continue (as long as the economy continues to improve.) I agree with what Taja said, that our parents deserve their own space and that is not fair to continuously live them.

  9. zhoulinjolin says:

    It is very interesting that this change is happening to America. In China, children are expected to live with or near parents. An ancient poem says that Children should not leave home far away when parents are alive. Showing filial piety to parents is a very important value and culture in China, and the way to show it is to drop by them frequently and take good care of them. I know this culture is quite different from America, where children are expected to live by their own when they are adults.

    I think the reason for the change is partly because of the economy depression. Children feel difficult to afford their life living in big cities, and they choose to live with their parents. Plus, economy depression bring more pressure for looking for jobs and for working much more hard in order to maintain a job. Escaping from ferce competition and life pressure may also be reasons that adults choose to live with their parents.

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