A University of Melbourne literature review shows an increasing trend of young adults staying at home well into their adulthood, as well as returning home years later, often with their children in tow.
Associate Professor Cassandra Szoeke and Katherine Burn, from the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, analysed 20 studies involving 20 million people worldwide using data from PubMed and PsycInfo and professional archives gathered by the Healthy Women’s Ageing Project.
They found that
The research also showed wealthier parents and those who are still married are more likely to have children living at home for longer, whereas parents in poor health were much less likely to have children living with them, unless the child was a carer.
“Starting university, saving for a house, or getting a new job can encourage people to stay at home longer and of course it’s a beneficial arrangement for them,” Ms Burn says. “Whereas early high school leavers from families with a step-parent tend to leave earlier and are also less likely to come back.”
As for the boomerangs – it’s usually unpleasant, unplanned events like unemployment or divorce that often prompt a return home. They are more likely to be in financial dire straits and sometimes come back with children of their own.
The old-fashioned notion that “empty nest” mothers pine for their departed children as they take flight into adulthood is not entirely true. “Professor Lorraine Dennerstein, founder of the Melbourne Women’s Midlife Health Project, studied this back in the 1990s. She found that an empty nest actually leads to a significant increase in positive mood and wellbeing for parents, but only once the last child has left home,” Associate Professor Szoeke says.
“Even when children do make financial contributions, the parents remain out of pocket,” Ms Burn says. “This can often cause resentment and conflict. The key to success is open communication and defining relationship and household roles early on, Associate Professor Szoeke says.
“Most parents genuinely enjoy spending time with their children and as people get older they can become more socially isolated. We know that loneliness scores are way down when kids come home. And children who leave home later are more likely to have regular contact and provide help to their parents."
“We see negative experiences when roles and expectations mismatch. If you look at cultures where it’s usual to have co-residence of adult children and parents, those conflicts don’t exist," Associate Professor Szoeke says.
All entries complied by osteopath Dr Wei Chua unless otherwise stated.