AUSTRALIA: Boomerang kids return home

Moving back home with mum and dad is not necessarily a negative step for the 'boomerang generation', a study by Deakin University researchers in Melbourne has found. Rather than being considered a step backwards, the young adults who took part in the study saw such a move as one small, mostly positive, step sideways on life's long journey.

The study involved interviews with nine young adults aged between 20 and 30 years who had returned to live with their parents after being out of home for four months or more. The reasons for moving back home included changes to their study and work commitments, the dissolution of personal relationships, difficulties with housemates and the need to save money.

Honours student Elyse Warner, under the supervision of Deakin health researchers Claire Henderson-Wilson and Fiona Andrews, conducted in-depth interviews with nine 'boomerang kids' - young adults who, after living independently, had returned to live with their parents.

"Through exploring the young adults' reasons for moving out, their experiences of independent living as well as what led them to return home and how this impacted on their well-being, we revealed a detailed snapshot of the lives of the so called 'boomerang generation', one that has not yet been offered in previous studies that tend to rely only on statistics," Warner said.

In contrast to previous studies that gave a somewhat negative portrayal of 'boomerang kids', the participants in the Deakin study felt positive about their decision given the benefits associated with doing so, not only in terms of finances and goal attainment but also their improved relationships with their parents.

"The results of our study clearly challenge the notion that returning home is a backward step for young adults," Warner said.

"The majority of the young adults felt that returning home was not regressing; it did not necessarily mean they had lost whatever they had gained while living independently. Like their friends and other young people, they were still realising their personal goals and plans for their futures, whether through work or study. For the most part, moving home was 'only short-term in the scheme of things...' "

One of the keys to the young adults' positive experiences seemed to be a healthy dose of respect, Warner said.

"There was acknowledgement that their parents, like themselves, were adults and deserved to be treated as such. Out of respect, the young adults were willing to comply with their parents' requests, particularly when it came to informing them of their whereabouts.

"They also respected the fact they were living in their parents' homes; they were concerned as to how their return home had imposed on their parents' lifestyles and made attempts to reduce this by contributing to the household financially and doing housework or by socialising outside the home."

For the most part, the young adults also had positive relationships with their parents both before moving out and while living independently, Warner explained.

"They had also put the decision to return home into perspective. The young adults realised that returning to live with their parents was a short-term arrangement that would have benefits in the long-term."