Did you give birth to one of these critters?
Let's reminisce. Some 45 or more years ago you graduated from high school and went straight to college. Your desire was to be independent and (perhaps) live as far away from your parents as possible.
You wanted to strike out on your own, cut the apron strings once and for all, and you did. You got your degree, a job, moved far away from your hometown, got married, had kids and three times a year hopped on a plane to visit your folks.
Fast forward: Your children followed suit: They both went to college, got their degrees and … oops! One of them couldn't find a job or at least not one that would allow him financial independence. So what did that 'child' do? The 'child' moved back in with you and your spouse.
Do I detect grumbling?
The next thing you know, your other child, the college-educated daughter, who is married and has three kids, gets a divorce, loses her job and, voila, she and the grands move back in with you, too.
The house, your house, is now accommodating four adults, three children, two dogs and one annoying gerbil.
Sweat is breaking out on your forehead. We can see it.
Boomerang Children or Failure to Launch
Approximately 16 percent of the population is living in a household with at least two adult generations. This is the highest point in 50 years. One in five people in their twenties and early thirties is residing with parents and 60 percent of these receive financial support from mom and dad.
A generation ago, only one in 10 adults moved back home to live with parents and receive monetary support from them, according to The New York Times.
Why the difficulty in transitioning into adult independence?
Childhood, or the Contemporary Version of it
Baby boomers for the most part had idyllic childhoods. We played and frolicked, became besotted with TV and weren't burdened with lots of responsibility, although perhaps more so than the subsequent generation. The same cannot be said for previous generations.
"Childhood' is a relatively modern economic innovation. In the nineteenth century, children were put to work by age four, particularly if living on a farm. By age 10, many were full time workers.
In the 1830s, the U.S. economy transformed in the U.S. changing from survival agriculture to industry and markets. People started making more money and families became smaller. By the 1850s, children were required to attend school.
Post-Civil War, the prevailing attitude was children under age 13 should be safeguarded from economic life. Child labor laws appeared around the turn of the century. Teenagers were now considered older children rather than young adults. They were cared for and urged to explore, whereas in previous generations they were already in the workforce and had been for years.
The transition from childhood to adulthood may have been easier when childhood was limited although those early years certainly were not a walk in the park for the child laborers. In fact, it was a difficult existence for kids.
No one is recommending our society abolish child labor laws and put preschoolers to work. However, since the children of this era had always worked they simply continued to do so. Transitioning into adulthood wasn't much of a changeover at all. Life was hard and everyone was expected to work, starting at a frighteningly early age.
Post War Boom
Post World War II up until 1978 was considered the post war boom. The fissure between the rich and poor shriveled to its lowest level on record. Many people benefitted from economic growth during these years.
And then the economy went south …
Why the change?
Since the early 1980s, the capacity to become economically independent has bit by bit declined. By 2007, before the recession, less than one in four fully-grown children was married and 34 percent of them depended on their parents to pay their rent.
The subsequent recession certainly didn't help but there were other factors in play. Speedy developments in technology, progress in foreign trade and adjustments to the tax code had an effect on everyone but especially those just starting out in the work force.
In 1970, only one in 10 Americans acquired a bachelor's degree. Those who did could expect a long and satisfying career. Nowadays, one-third of young people have four-year degrees yet are doubtful of finding permanent employment needed to pay down their debt and put them on the way to earning more than their parents.
More than 50 percent of new college grads are unemployed or underemployed in jobs not necessitating a college degree, making below average wages.
It's not looking good.
What about the boomerang kid who freeloads?
Psychotherapist Robi Ludwig explains there are two kind of boomerang kids, including those who return home to live with a purpose and those who come back home with the intention of becoming 'perma-children.'
The latter group is living in a state of limbo and tends to revert to an earlier stage of development, falling into old habits and using the money they earn as throwaway income rather than on food, rent and other necessities. Dr. Phil calls this bunch the new generation of moochers.
Ludwig observes it is taking young adults a bit longer to grow up than it used to which can result in 'perma-parenting,' allowing parents to temporarily circumvent the empty nest syndrome.
If you are one of these hovering parents, you are doing your adult child a disservice. He needs to grow up, become self-supporting AND move out. This should be your objective, not assisting your kid in reversion to dependency on ma and pa.
Moreover, keep in mind the return of an adult child can interfere with your goals and you need to have goals. If you don't have any, get some. Your child-rearing days should be behind you.
This situation is not going to work out favorably, no matter how you slice or dice it if the child is a sponger. Adult children should not be reliant upon their parents for all things particularly if there is no reciprocity. The parents get nothing out of this arrangement except headaches, hardships and a dwindling bank account.
Is This Just Temporary?
Boomerang kids are probably not a short-term phenomenon or stopgap glitch and multigenerational living is possibly going to be the standard in the future, unless there is a tremendous upswing in the economy.
Multi-generational living can certainly be a good thing. People are living longer and may require care, which live-in children and grandchildren can provide. The adult children may need child care, which the grandparents can offer.
Of course, if there is a long-standing fractious relationship between parents and their grown child this living arrangement will prove problematic. If one generation is assuming most of the burden for financial upkeep and housework this can also prove difficult.
The idea is that everyone pitches in to make it work, contributing in some way to the household. No one gets a free pass.
If you are considering, or have been forced into, multigenerational living, you and your housemates must sit down, write a contract and agree on who is responsible for what.
Parents should have contracts with their parasitical offspring from the get go but that doesn't usually happen, although it should. The contract should include a 'move out' date as in you can stay here until such and such date.
While the moocher is living with you s/he must agree in writing to your conditions. If the adult child doesn't like the condition s/he can pack his bags and hit the road.
Yes, easier said than done. It's difficult to tell someone you love they are no longer welcome in your house. Some parents can't do it but they would be better off and so would their offspring if they could.
Enabling your child isn't the answer. If s/he has to stand on his own feet it will be a good and necessary lesson. After all, 33 isn't too young to be independent.
Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism back in the dark ages (aka before computers, the Internet and cell phones. Heck, before electric typewriters!) A former newspaper writer/columnist and photographer, her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in national magazines. A full-time freelance writer, as well as an avid gardener, an artist and yoga aficionado, Cindi is a Baby Boomer and proud of it. She has survived the gnarly challenges of the sandwich generation and lived to tell the tale. Cindi has somehow managed to stay married to her first and only husband for nearly 35 years. They are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of one. She has five large, raucous dogs, five acres to mow on her beloved zero turn mower, and gets the biggest kick out of making people laugh on Facebook. (P.S. She refuses to cut her hair short.)