No such thing as an empty nest when it comes to graduates

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The FINANCIAL — An LSE study looking at the relationship between parents and their adult children returning to live at home after university has revealed mixed experiences.

Parents are usually more negative than their children, many of whom are unaware of their parents’ dissatisfaction, according to Professor Jane Lewis from LSE’s Department of Social Policy, who led the study.

Around 50 per cent of today’s graduates aged 22-24 return to the parental home after university due to a combination of a weak job market and high rental costs. The impact of this trend has been substantial, research shows, but often with mixed results.

“Our study found that the graduates tended to be more positive than their parents about returning to the family home, although both groups expressed mainly negative feelings about the situation,” Professor Lewis says.

“It appears that some parents experience a lot of tension between supporting their children and successfully ‘launching’ them as independent adults.

“There is resentment from some parents about children expecting to be treated as adults on the one hand, but not pulling their weight when it comes to household chores or taking responsibility for other aspects of their lives.”

Parents and their adult children were interviewed separately on the same issues – financial dependence, changing roles, household chores, planning for the future – and often expressed disparate views.

Some parents feared that they might have made home ‘too comfortable’ for their children who then lacked the motivation to move out, even after securing employment.

Graduates returning to the parental home were also likely to feel more dependent on their parents than they had as students, with shattered expectations of a smooth transition from university to full-time employment and autonomy.

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For the dissatisfied graduates, “it is often the disappointment associated with having to return home that is the problem, together with the curtailment of their independence – both financially and emotionally,” Professor Lewis adds.

Most parents worried about their children’s future and found it difficult to adjust to the uncertainty of the whole situation.

“However, given the competitive job market and high living costs today, both parents and graduates felt that returning to the family home was inevitable. So there is a very real chance that it will become increasingly acceptable.”


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