DR Rob Gandy I UK
So your kids have grown up and gone off to university, travelled the world or got a job in some other town or city.
After the initial upset at your nest being emptied and the realisation that this is another landmark in your life’s journey, you settle down to a new routine where there is quite a bit more freedom: where you aren’t required as a taxi late into the night; where your drinks cabinet hasn’t suddenly been stripped of all its contents; and where the television programmes and music played are what you want to watch and hear. You can go out for the evening in the safe knowledge that their ‘friends’ won’t have called in and help trash the place with cigarette stubs and vodka spills killing your prized cactus. You still keep in touch with your cherubs, usually when they decide that they need something, and you exchange visits, particularly if there are grandchildren (and they need someone to babysit). But then you receive that telephone call that you’ve always feared and dreaded: “Can I come back home to live with you?” Yes – your kid is a boomerang!
“Can I come back home to live with you?” Yes – your kid is a boomerang!
Image by Naassom Azevedo via Unsplash.com
A major study has looked at the impact that adults who move back home after moving away have on their parents1. And THEY CAUSE THEIR PARENTS STRESS AND CONFLICT! What a surprise! In fact, the biggest surprise is arguably the fact that the academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science got funding to research what to most GBoomers is the b!@@$% obvious! Seventeen countries were covered: France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Estonia and Poland. Conspicuous by its absence is the United Kingdom! Those amongst us who adhere to conspiracy theories suspect that this might be because if the UK HAD been included in the research the results would probably gone right off the scale!
The research found that parents’ (aged between 50 and 75) whose adult children moved back into the family home saw a decline in their quality of life and wellbeing. But this slump in wellbeing was only when there were no other children still at home, i.e. there was no impact if other children were already living in the family home. Quality of life and wellbeing was measured across four areas: control; autonomy; pleasure; and self-realisation. The higher a score, the better the quality of life. The study found that when an adult child returned home to an “empty-nest”, scores dropped significantly. Its report stated that such a drop had a substantial effect on quality of life; it was similar to developing an age-related disability, such as difficulties with walking or getting dressed! (I suspect that some of the boomerang kids had difficulties with getting out of bed and getting dressed!)
The study observed that “Over the past half century, intergenerational co-residence has declined dramatically in Western countries. However, this pattern has recently altered, and in some countries multigenerational co-residence has increased; a shift interpreted as a family response to high unemployment rates, poor job prospects and financial hardship among young adults.” Clearly there are different reasons for adult kids returning home, e.g. unemployment and partnership breakdown, which are themselves distressing to parents. But after controlling for this, it was found that the return of a child still caused a significant decline in parents’ wellbeing.
Apparently there is a greater effect in Protestant countries compared to Catholic countries, but there is an effect in all countries. Part of the reason is that when parents no longer have children at home their marital relationship improves and they find a new balance, enjoying life through new hobbies and activities. This all goes out of the window when adult children move back.
So be warned! Make sure you have an escape strategy if your own kids look like they might boomerang back to you. I am reminded of a true story that I was told by a couple of work colleagues many years ago. They had a mutual acquaintance who had left home to go to university. One Friday, on the spur of the moment, he decided to go home for the weekend. He arrived at his home and rang the doorbell. The door opened and the man answering the door asked “Who are you?” to which he replied “Who are you?” It transpired that his parents had moved house and not told him! Was this an oversight or a cunning plan? Keep this story filed away in the back of your mind in case of emergency.