It is an accepted fact that when children first fly the nest it can hit parents hard – but most soon find it a liberating experience that gives them a new lease of life after years of dedicated duty. Now a study has revealed that they appreciate the freedom so much that if their children return to the family home the effect of the intrusion can be as bad as suffering an illness or a disability.
It said that mothers and fathers suffer distress on behalf of their off springs if they come back because they have lost a job or broken up with a partner. But the biggest blow is the loss of the independence and the new quality of life they had experienced when their children left home.
Researchers from the LSE examined assessment of the quality of life across Europe to study the effects of returning ‘boomerang’ children on their parents’ wellbeing. They found that when an adult child returns to its old home, occupied only by its mother and father, the parents suffered a loss of ‘feelings of control, autonomy, pleasure and self-realisation in everyday life. This has a substantial effect on quality of life similar to developing an age-related disability, such as difficulties with walking or getting distressed.’
Between 6 and 7 million young people aged between 15 and 34 live in the family home with their parents, according to recent assessments from the Office of National Statistics. The numbers are around a million up on 20 years ago, driven largely by the high cost of housing and increasing pressure on the finances of young people, including the need to repay student debt.
Children moving back home are also likely to place extra pressures on the ‘bank of mum and dad’. Dr Marco Tosi, a research officer in the LSE’s Department of Social Policy, said: ‘When children leave the parental home marital relationships improve and parents find a new equilibrium. They enjoy this stage in life, finding new hobbies and activities. When adult children move back, it is a violation of that equilibrium. Our work shows that in contexts where family orientations and welfare institutions foster individuals’ independence, return-home’s by adult children have negative implications for parents’ wellbeing.’
The paper, produced by Dr Tosi and colleagues, said that around a quarter of young adults in Britain live with their parents and a similar pattern can be seen across Europe. However, the trend is more marked in Protestant countries such as the UK, than in Southern European or Catholic nations. On top of the impact of the intrusion, parents are also upset when a child has difficulties in early adulthood.
The report, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, said: ‘Economic difficulties and temporary instability prompt returns to the parental home, particularly among young adults who leave education to find a position in the labour market. Similarly, union dissolution may prompt a return to the parental home as a possible solution to economic, housing and emotional problems. For parents these events in a child’s life may be distressing. Parents tend to suffer when they see their children suffer.’
I personally believe that young people these days are likely to face hardships when trying to settle down to a life where comfort does not come easy. Competition in the market place is fierce and the high cost of living is often crippling. It is a problem for every government in the western hemisphere. Let’s hope that something concrete can be done to help the younger generation to survive against unimaginable odds.