The Continuing Boom of Boomerang Kids and the Shocking Male/Female Divide
Boomerang Kids

As our offspring have grown older and more secure in their adult lives the idea of them returning to the nest as boomerang kids has become much less of an issue for us.

But this story, "How to deal with adult children who move back home," by marriage and family therapist Linda Lewis Griffith of The Tribune reminded us that for many would be, no should be, empty nesters it is still an ongoing fact of life.

The first thing that struck us from the article were these statistics:

According to the August 2013 Pew Research Center Report, “A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in their Parents’ Home,” 21.6 million millennials lived with their parents in 2012, a whopping 36 percent of all people that age. It represents a 40-year high.

Their numbers have been steadily climbing. Before the Great Recession of 2007, 32 percent of adult children in this age group lived at home. When the recession officially ended in 2009, 34 percent were doing so.

It is very common to blame the boomerang phenomenon on the economy, but this polling shows that it was in full swing before the economy tanked, rose only a couple of percentage points during the collapse, and continues to rise even as the economy shows signs of recovering.

Digging a little deeper into the numbers from the Pew Report, we discovered an extremely surprising fact - men bounce back home at a rate of 40 percent, compared to just 32 percent for women. 

This directly contradicts the old thinking that girls stay home until they get married while boys go out and start careers.

Not that we didn't already know that stereotype was ancient history, but these days more young women are attending and graduating from college than men as well. Fortune Magazine says, "Female grads now account for about 60% of U.S. bachelor's degree holders."

So more women are getting degrees and less of them are returning home after school. This came as a bit of a surprise to us, but after some thought it fit in with our theory that there are basically two kinds of boomerang kids.

Some of them, likely female from what we've seen here, may be effected by the economy but are seeking solutions, while others, more often young men, seek the path of least resistance. The Tribune article identifies the two types very well:

Many of these offspring return home with a specific plan. Perhaps they want to quickly pay off their student loans before getting their own apartment. Or they have a few more classes to finish up on their college degree.

Obviously these people are not the problem. These young adults have goals and no intention of staying in mom and dad's house indefinitely. However, there are a whole bunch of less motivated boomerangs bouncing back to the old homestead, and the article hits the nail on the head about them:

Others have less direction. They may be unable to land a job in their field and, after a few month of trying, decide they no longer need to look. Some lack any goals for themselves or continually promise they’ll start looking for work. Others appear unable to fend for themselves and may use drugs or hang with friends who are equally underperforming.

These are the ones causing their parents to pull their hair out. The article goes on to offer some of the usual advice, charge rent, have rules, make them pay their own way, and set a departure date - all good ideas.

But we have heard from numerous folks frustrated by their boomerang brats ignoring these, or any reasonable boundaries. What to do then?

The article doesn't say it, but we will. Parents need to make it perfectly clear to these full-grown freeloaders that they don't owe them a thing. As parents, our job is officially finished at eighteen and any help provided beyond that is a gift, not an obligation.

These "kids" are adults. It's time they acted like one.

David and Veronica,

YOUR TURN: You've heard our thoughts - what's your take? Were you as surprised at the male/female divide as we were? Why do you think this shift is happening?

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