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Parents court trouble letting kids boomerang home

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Accumulating statistics show today's mollycoddled kids prefer the comforting velvet-cushion homespun pampering of the parental home to the cold realities of independent living. Life on a silver platter sharing the parental home is the option of choice for young people facing uncertain economic times.

Boomerang kids are adolescent or adult children who have left the parental home at some point in the past to live on their own, but who have subsequently returned to live with parents.

"Today's parents are likelier to treat young adults like pampered teens, reinvesting in dormant parenting roles, especially if their kids are floundering," The Guardian recently reported.

"We don't think they can do it on their own," explained psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker.

The most recent Statistics Canada census data (2011 figures) indicates fully 60 per cent of individuals ages 20 to 24 live with their parents; 25 per cent of those ages 25 to 29. Young males are more likely than young females to prefer to live in the parental home.

According to the Vanier Institute, in 2006, the comforting milieu of the parental home was preferred by 65 per cent of males ages 20 to 24; 55 per cent of females. One-quarter of parents hosting adolescent or adult children reported having at least one boomerang kid at home. The proportion of boomerang kids living at home jumped by one-third since 1980.

According to Greg Kaplan at York University, "co-residence (parent-young adult) is an important component of parental support" that is extremely relevant in an analysis of youth-labour market interrelationships.

Across North America an average of 50 per cent of young adults ages 20 to 24 live in the parental home. A 2009 study at the University of Michigan showed fully 42 per cent of adolescents ages 19 to 22 receive financial aid from parents to pay their regular daily living bills. About two-thirds receive parental financial aid of all kinds, including help with school tuition fees.

When adolescents and young adults face a choice between a free ride at the parental home, or accepting low-paying, menial, belittling or demeaning employment, more than half of those ages 20 to 34 opt for life on parental turf.

Psychologists suggest that parents who condone or encourage boomeranging probably do more harm than good because boomeranging discourages, rather than encourages, the self-reliance that is vital in the normal progression toward adulthood.

In addition, boomerang kids and their indulgent parents encounter abundant problems as a result of co-sharing the parental home. Privacy and boundary issues commonly surface. But the attractiveness of easy-street life can nonetheless make the parental home seem irresistible to adolescent or adult children who have tried independence but prefer the perks of living in the parental home.

"Kids can afford to live on their own, but that would downgrade their lifestyle," concluded Barbara Mitchell at Simon Fraser University.

Although kids face tough economic prospects, their entitlement mindset fosters an unwillingness to accept employment opportunities they consider beneath their expectations.

Such decadence and self-indulgence are not helpful in generating the sort of employment atmosphere crucial to a healthy economy, economists have pointed out.

Robert Alison is a zoologist and freelance writer based in Victoria.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 A15

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