The Boomerang Generation: 'kidults' move back home

Why the increasing number of 'kidults' moving back into their childhood homes may find themselves destitute
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The Independent Online

Young adults who return to the family home after leaving to attend college or get a job are placing an intolerable financial burden on their parents, according to a new study.

Young adults who return to the family home after leaving to attend college or get a job are placing an intolerable financial burden on their parents, according to a new study.

The so-called "boomerang" generation of men and women lean on their parents for hand-outs and a spare bed well into their twenties and beyond because of soaring house prices, increased education fees, job insecurity and a rising divorce rate.

For an estimated seven million "kidults," as they have been dubbed, a guaranteed supply of ironed shirts and home-cooked meals are just some of the benefits of living back home with their parents after being at university or renting with friends.

However, a report published tomorrow by the National Family and Parenting Institute (NFPI) warns that this "backtracking" approach to growing up by young people could leave them destitute if their parents are unable - or unwilling - to continue supporting them.

The charity, which campaigns to improve family life, says there is an assumption by the Government that parents will subsidise their children well into their twenties and offer them shelter, although they have no legal obligation to do so. The problem is particularly acute among middle-aged parents who are also struggling to meet the needs of their own ageing parents.

The NFPI findings, based on research into the lives of more than 1,000 young people from a range of social backgrounds, show that many are delaying adulthood for as long as possible instead of following the traditional route of getting a job and leaving home then marrying and becoming parents themselves. However, the majority of parents surveyed believe that their legal responsibility to provide a roof over their children's heads ends before the age of 18. Fifty-nine per cent believe they have to provide housing until the age of 16 or 17, compared with 5 per cent who believe this responsibility ends when their children have reached 21.

Mary MacLeod, chief executive of the NFPI, said middle-aged parents were now finding themselves burdened with the responsibility for both their children and their own parents with little or no state support.

"Job insecurity, the cost of housing, longer education and training, with young people and parents bearing the costs, all add up to a life of longer dependence on parents," she said.

"Few parents wish their children away, but there comes a time when young people want to be independent and when parents want to have less responsibility; so we do need to have more imaginative housing provision for young people."

For some, this return to the family "nest" can even happen to people who are themselves parents and have reached middle-age. Angela Porter, 57, lives in Hastings, East Sussex, with her 82-year-old mother. The mother-of-four, who moved back home six years ago after her marriage broke up, works part-time and pays her mother rent to cover her bed and board.

Her dream is to find a place of her own, with her 28-year-old daughter who has just split up with her partner, but this is proving difficult because of the very high cost of housing in Hastings.

"It is very difficult to protect your own independence - it's not so much being treated like a teenager but more like a four-year-old," said Ms Porter, whose brother also lives at the family home.

"I would definitely like a home of my own and I'm working towards that. My mother thinks that she owns me and I never intended to be in this situation. My friends just feel sorry for me."

Professor Gill Jones, who wrote the report for the NFPI and is an expert on young people and their families, said that parents who find themselves living under the same roof as their offspring a lot longer than they had anticipated need more guidance and support.

"There are many circumstances in which young people may decide to move back home, for example if their relationship breaks down," said Ms Jones, who is emeritus professor of sociology at Keele University.

She added: "But there are a lot of competing demands on parents and there is a limited pot of money, so they are having to juggle resources and may favour one child over another."

'Oh my God, we're 24 and we're still at home'

Twenty-four-year old Anna Katz lives in Crouch End, London, with her parents Rhoda and Baruch. After leaving home to go to university in Sussex, the researcher decided to move back home so that she could afford to pursue her ambition of working in television. Her meals are cooked by her mother, who also does some of Anna's washing, but Anna says she has a good relationship with her parents.

"For me there were two main issues - the first was my big dream of travelling," she says. "I knew the only way I could save money was to move back home. The other thing was that I work in television. I started off doing work experience and my parents fully support me in that."

Anna's 53-year-old mother had a very different experience of leaving home. After going to university, she married.

Anna says: "She knows that it's different now. I don't spend much time at home because I need to see my friends. I do say to them 'if you want me to pay rent', but they very much see it as my home. I get on well with my parents. They leave me to it and treat me like an adult. My mum describes it as like having another flat-mate."

Anna says that she will move out eventually but in the meantime finds living at home a positive experience.

"Most of my friends who grew up in London still live at home. We have these conversations which start 'Oh my God, we're 24 and still at home'. But it all comes down to the financial situation."