1. Not quite adults – Vital Statistics
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2011, nearly 3.0 million adults aged between 20 and 34 were living with a parent or parents, an increase of almost half a million, or 20 per cent, since 1997. This is despite the number of people in the population aged 20 to 34 being largely the same in 1997 and 2011. This means that nearly 1/3 men and 1/7 women in the UK now live with their parents.
However – Not all ‘Kippers*’ are the same! (*Kids living in their parents’ pockets)
It is important to keep in mind that not all ‘adult kids’ are the same; experiences of living at home with your parents into your 30s will vary.
For example, the experience of being a NEET and living at home with your parents may well be different to being one of the ‘Boomerang Kids’ – who move out to go to university but then move back in with their parents afterwards
Some adult kids would have lived at home continuously, but many would have moved out for a period with a partner, and then moved back in again.
Adult-Kids will also vary as to the extent to which they are forced into living with their parents due to financial reasons, or choose to do so for ‘lifestyle reasons’.
Experiences will also differ depending on parental attitudes to having their adult children living with them.
2. Why are increasing numbers of ‘adult children’ living with their parents?
Many commentators stress that young adults have no choice but to live with their parents, focusing on structural (mainly economic) reasons that force people to live with their parents.
The following structural changes mean it is harder for young people to transition to independent living.
- The massive expansion in higher education has seen the number of undergraduate students triple since 1970, from 414,000 to 1.27 million – this means more young adults are not in work and economically dependent on their parents for longer.
- The recent recession has been accompanied by a sharp increase in unemployment rates among young adults,” This means that recent graduates, especially men, are increasingly returning to live with their parents after graduating. Their numbers are being swelled by the increasing levels of student debt they have accumulated by the time they finish their studies.
- Then there are changes in the housing market. Even those in work cannot afford to move out of the family home as first-time buyers now face house prices that are, on average, five times average incomes, compared with a multiple of three times 20 years ago.
However, there are also cultural changes which mean young adults are more likely to choose to live with their parents even when they could move out.
- There is more uncertainty about what a ‘normal relationship’ is. Changing roles of men and women and changing expectations of relationships and family life result in young people being more reluctant to settle down in a classic long term relationship.
- The meaning of ‘being 20 something is different today to what it was in the 1970s. Today, we simply want to ‘settle down’ later in life – 20s have become about ‘pulling and dating’, ‘30s about serious long term relationships, and late 30s about children. Of those 20 somethings who do flee the parental nest, they are increasingly likely to either live alone or share with friends. The number of young couple households has been decreasing in recent years.
- The increasing number of ‘kippers’ might also be linked to the increasing instability of relationships. There are plenty of late 20s and 30 somethings who have previously moved in with a partner for a few years, suffered a relationship breakdown, ended up back with their parents and are now reluctant to recommit!
3. Perspectives on the ‘not quite children’
Most of the commentary on this social trend seems to be negative – focussing on such things as:
- The increase in family tensions
- The fact that people are forced into starting families later.
- It means it takes children longer to become truly independent – less able to grow up. (This strongly worded article even argues over-parenting is akin to child abuse)
Some research, however, suggests that adults living at home with their parents can be a positive thing – As this research, based on 500 ‘adult-kids’ in the USA suggests
‘Few 20-somethings who live at home are mooching off their parents. More often, they are using the time at home to gain necessary credentials and save money for a more secure future.
Helicopter parents aren’t so bad after all. Involved parents provide young people with advantages, including mentoring and economic support, that have become increasingly necessary to success.’
Find out More
Barbara Ellen of the Guardian really doesn’t approve – NB most of the commentators don’t approve of her views either!