Education & Family

Parents 'puzzled' when new graduates return home

Young man with parents Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption About half of graduates aged 22 to 24 now live with their parents, say researchers

Parents of young adults who return to the family home after university are often "puzzled" about how to manage the relationship, suggests a small study.

Living together again "is often not a strongly positive experience" for parent or child, say London School of Economics (LSE) researchers.

But with up to half of new graduates living at home it may "become a new social norm", they add.

The researchers carried out in-depth interviews in 27 households.

Some 3.3 million UK adults aged between 20 and 34 were living in the parental home in 2013, according to official statistics.

This amounted to a quarter of that age group - but among graduates aged 22 to 24, the proportion rose to about half, according to the researchers.

'Negative feelings'

Returning home was usually prompted more by need than desire, they found, with new graduates facing a relatively weak jobs market and high property prices.

"No returner wanted to live with their parents indefinitely, although some... were in no hurry to live independently," their study said.

And many parents were "anxious as to how long it might continue".

"Some parents experience a lot of tension between supporting their children and successfully 'launching' them as independent adults," said lead author Prof Jane Lewis.

The study found the graduates were largely more positive than their parents, but both groups expressed mainly negative feelings.

Some parents complained the young adults did not contribute sufficiently to household chores and finances, while some young adults were unhappy at the loss of the independence they had gained at university.

However, some families reported positive aspects, such as improved relationships between the generations.

No 'roadmap'

"Securing a career job was crucial to more positive feelings about co-residence," the researchers found.

Not having a job or a job-hunting plan was like returning to the family home without a "roadmap", according to one mother interviewed.

Another described her son as being in "the waiting room" but not knowing when the train might come.

The sheer numbers of new graduates now living with their parents may provide some comfort to both generations, the researchers concluded.

"Many parents in the sample tried to take comfort from knowing that they were not the only people experiencing the problems that accompanied the return of a young adult child, while many young adults took comfort from knowing that many of their university friends had also returned home," the study said.

With the competitive job market and high living costs "both parents and graduates felt that returning to the family home was inevitable", said Prof Lewis.

"So there is a very real chance that it will become increasingly acceptable."

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