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Why Do Many Young Adults Return to Their Parents?

Why Do Many Young Adults Return to Their Parents?A new UK study finds a group of key turning points in young adults’ lives which influence whether or not they return to their parent’s home.

Social scientists Drs. Juliet Stone, Ann Berrington and Jane Falkingham of the University of Southampton sought to clarify the seemingly backward transition, and examine the factors that contribute to the decision to return home.

They discovered factors such as leaving full-time education, unemployment, or a relationship break-up, are highly significant in whether young people go back to living with their parents.

The research team used the long-running British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to examine how major changes in young adults’ lives contribute to their decision to return to the “safety-net” of the parental home.

The BHPS began in 1991 and was aimed at understanding social and economic change at the individual and household level.

As part of this survey, 5,000 young men and women in their twenties and thirties were interviewed every year until 2008 – data which the Southampton team has now examined.

The results of the new study indicate that until recently, the act of returning to the parental home was relatively uncommon, with an average of only 2 per cent of young adults returning during the 17 years to 2008.

The findings indicate that women in their early 20s are returning more often, perhaps a reflection of the number of young women going to university.

Returning is also much more common when young adults are in their early 20s and remains a relatively rare event once they reach their 30s.

The investigators go on to show, however, that returning home is prevalent for certain subgroups of young adults, even when they reach their early thirties.

The study findings indicate that:

  • For young adults completing full-time education, it has become commonplace to return home. Around half of those leaving education in their early twenties returned home;
  • Relationship breakups are another main reason that people return home in young adulthood. Among men and women who experienced a break-up in their early twenties, around a third returned home;
  • Men remain more likely to be living in the parental home than women, although the gender gap is narrowing;
  • The association between economic disadvantage and living in the parental home has strengthened, especially among men.

Commenting on the findings, Stone said: “The study shows that completing higher education is one of the strongest determinants of returning to the parental home.

“With the labor market becoming more unpredictable, there are no guarantees of employment for graduates and where in past decades the expectation was that upon completion of their course they would move straight into employment, this can no longer be relied upon in the same way.”

Said Berrington: “Finishing full-time education continues to be the major reason for returning to the parental home – to the extent that this is now considered ‘normal’ for young adults in their early 20s.

“This is particularly striking in the global context of recession, increased university tuition fees and rising student debt.”

The researchers also report that although relationship breakups have been identified as a major factor influencing young people’s decision to return, this may depend on the young person’s gender and whether or not they have dependent children.

They speculate that after a break-up, mothers and fathers may find support from different sources, with young lone mothers being more able to rely on the welfare state, and young, single, non-resident fathers requiring more support from their own parent(s).

Overall, the researchers believe the recent trend to form relationships later in life, and the growing popularity of higher education, has led to women to be similar to men in their destinations on leaving home and the likelihood of returning to the parental home.

Source: University of Southampton


Son hugging his mother photo by shutterstock.

Why Do Many Young Adults Return to Their Parents?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Why Do Many Young Adults Return to Their Parents?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Nov 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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