By Emily Reynolds
For many, moving out of the parental home is a rite of passage, a sign that growing up is only just beginning. But there are also many reasons why someone might withdraw in the with parents: after a separation, to save, for health reasons or to care for old or sick relatives. Anecdotally, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have been another reason for such a move, with articles about children residing with their parents appearing in abundance and providing advice on how to deal with it.
But how do such “boomerang kids” justify their decision to move home, and how do they make sure that it goes well? A new study published in Aspiring adulthood finds four strategies that young people can use to make the transition back into the family as positive as possible.
Participants were 31 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 who had moved back into their parents’ home. Researchers asked participants about their experiences before analyzing the data to identify key issues.
The analysis revealed an overarching concern for boomerang kids: their move as an “investment in the future” and not as something to be ashamed of. Several participants admitted the stigma of moving home, with one saying that it “made me feel insecure about my success … that others judge me for it”.
However, this stigma has often been turned on its head and rephrased as a positive decision for the future: Participants mentioned the financial security they were given, the increased likelihood of returning to university or study and the opportunity to leave Parents advise and support each other.
The team also developed four communication strategies that participants used to navigate the move home in a way that both reduced the experience of stigma and developed adult relationships with their parents. The first was to develop clear expectations with the parents in order to impose boundaries and determine what coexistence would look like in reality. These discussions revolved around issues such as curfews, meal times, housework, and other responsibilities.
Likewise, all participants saw household contributions as an important factor in de-stigmatizing homecoming and ensuring that relationships work well. These contributions included cooking, running errands, paying rent and other practical tasks, and making emotional contributions by listening to parents and sharing feelings.
Participants also said it was important to make sure parents know that the move is temporary, and in some cases they shared a specific schedule. One participant pointed out the importance of “having a next step”: “I told them it was a two year commitment and we are pretty much on the right track.” This also helped with cultural stigma and shame: Seeing the move as a temporary transition period helped the participants to accept their move and make it a logical step.
Finally, the participants emphasized that “mature, responsible, adult behavior” is the key: waking up early, establishing and adhering to routines and responsibilities, and functioning independently. For some, this prevented them from reverting to their “child identity” when they lived at home and established adult relationships with parents that were different in dynamics from those of childhood or adolescence.
Although family relationships will differ significantly from unit to unit, especially considering different geographical and cultural expectations, the interviews as a whole give a good insight not only into the reality of the move, but also into the actual navigation. Future research might look more closely at that differences in people’s experiences and how this relates to personality type, background and other individual factors.
– A normative approach to understand how “Boomerang Kids” negotiate communicatively to move home
Emily Reynolds is an associate at BPS Biomedarticles