Student debt creates generation of mummy's boys

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The Independent Online

It’s official. Student debt, unaffordable house prices and rising unemployment is helping create a generation of mummy’s boys.

Unable to buy their own home, saddled with student debt and struggling to find work, grown-up sons are now twice as likely as their sisters to still be living at home with their parents, official statistics revealed today.

Nearly a quarter of young men aged 25-29 still live with their parents, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That compares with one in eight women of the same age who have not yet left home.

Even men well into their 30s are failing to fly the nest. More than one in 10 men aged 30-34 are still living in the family home, compared to fewer than one in 20 women.

The figures were revealed in a study by the ONS into the changing living arrangements of young adults.

The report said: “At every age, females are more likely to be living outside of the parental home than males.

“For those in their mid-20s to mid-30s, there has been a consistent, albeit small increase in the proportion of young adults living with their parents over the past 20 years.”

It said the “transition to adulthood” was increasingly being postponed by young people who put off standing on their own two feet. High house prices and student debt mean young adults find it more difficult to move out. Rising joblessness in the recession is also making it harder for young people to live independently, the report said. Often those who stay at home are “boomerang children” who left home to go to university but then returned to the nest in early or mid-adulthood.

Young adults from Northern Ireland are the most likely to be living with their parents, with up to half of boys and a third of girls still at home in their 20s. Statisticians said this was likely to be because of the lack of geographical mobility in Northern Ireland.

Parents living in outer London are also more likely to have their grown up offspring living with them because these young adults could save by living at home while commuting into central London to work, the report said.

There has been virtually no change in the proportion of 16 to 34-year-olds living with their parents. However, this average picture masks changes in the demographic of those failing to leave home. Young people in their early twenties are now less likely to live at home. In contrast, people in their mid-twenties and early thirties were more likely to be living with their parents in 2008 than in 1988.

The report concluded: “The results suggest that the transition to residential independence among young adults is becoming increasingly protracted and reversible for all groups.”

The statisticians also found a cultural shift away from young adults living with a partner in their early twenties. Instead there was a move towards either living alone or sharing with other young adults.

David Spellman, a consultant clinical psychologist in East Lancashire, said: “It would not be normal in a lot of cultures for a young person to leave home at 16, 17 or 18 and my sense is that ideas about this are changing. Many people have different kinds of family arrangements, often driven by financial necessity.

“The bottom line is how do the arrangements work. There will be some parents who would be terrified at the idea of their children living with them into adulthood. Others would be delighted and hope that they never leave. Trouble only comes when it suits one party but not the other.”

But Roderick Orner, a consultant clinical psychologist and visiting professor at Lincoln University, said: “There is a suspicion that many young people grow up these days being protected, shielded almost spoiled by their

parents,” he said. “These critical experiences of having to go and fend for yourself does not really arise as it used to do. Then they find themselves lacking in skills and it becomes difficult for them to do many things socially and financially and to form long lasting relationships outside the family.”Emma Bamford