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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11 thoughts on “The Continuing Boom of Boomerang Kids and the Shocking Male/Female Divide”

  1. There are all kinds of boomerang kids as well as all kinds of problems that bring them back to the parental home. Families that work together toward adult kids moving out within a year and then hold them accountable promises independence for everyone.

  2. Sometimes it’s harder NOT to do things for your grown children. But by not allowing them to become independent and responsible it can be damaging to their future relationships. Will their future spouse be expected to take over from the parent?

  3. I found the study very interesting, though I’ve always suspected that more men return than women.

    I might be talking out of turn because I’m divorced and my children aren’t 18 yet, but here are some suggestions for the people that have freeloaders:

    Make a chore list and post it wherever they will see it-on their computer screens, tv set, refrigerator, bedroom door, etc. Be specific about what you want them to do and when you want it done.

    Restrict access to internet and cable. Change your pass codes and don’t allow them to use unless they contribute something.

    Don’t do their laundry or prepare meals for them.

    If they leave messes for you to pick up, gather it up in a bag or a basket and dump it where they will most hate it-in their car, on their bed, on top of their computer. This includes the dirty rags and/or paper towels you had to use to wipe up their messes! Or stand right over them until they pick it up and put it away or throw it away.

    If you have to play chauffeur, charge them each time-gas, wear and tear on vehicle, and most importantly, your time. If they don’t pony-up, don’t drive them!

    Let your kids know how much extra it costs to house and feed them. Be specific about the dollar amount you want them to contribute instead of just asking for some money to pay for bills.

    If your spouse is fighting you, shift more of the responsibility onto them. Make them drive or clean-up, shop for their groceries, etc. This will allow them to see just how much extra work you have to do. It’s easy to allow things to happen when somebody else is doing all the work.

    If you can’t get them to start helping out, start packing up their things for them, and put it outside.

    I know these are drastic measures, but when you’ve tried everything else, it’s time for the extreme. At least you will get your point across, and now it’s not just Mom or Dad nagging at them. I have tried some of these measures on my 12 year old twin boys, and they do work. Yes it sucks, but they have gradually and grudgingly started helping out with chores and picking up after themselves. You shouldn’t have to treat your adult children like 12 year olds, but when push comes to shove-START SHOVING! I hope this helps!

  4. I agree that adult children who are working full-time should encouraged to leave. I can understand letting them live TEMPORARILY with the parents if they are paying off college loans or have been laid off. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t see things the same way I do.

    He enables our children (twins 24 and son 27) and as a result they have not moved out. Son has lived away from home for a time, he bounces back every time he ends a bad relationship. He is in debt up to the eyeballs (his fault) and refuses to contribute financially to the household (he wastes money on nutritional supplements, video game subscriptions, fancy clothes, bad women and bad cars). The only good thing I can say is that he is employed.

    Daughter one works two jobs but doesn’t have a car and depends on the drivers (husband, daughter two and myself) to bring her to work. She can afford a car but has vision problems re: night driving. The public transport in our area is not good. I say she could take a cab or ride her bike to work to work but husband disagrees. She has a boyfriend with a car and an apartment but won’t move in with him because it is too far from her jobs.

    Daughter 2 just got her degree in May and and started full-time employment. She has two part time jobs besides this and her goal is to move out and get her own place (she bought a car with her own money and pays for that as well as her car insurance.)

    Hubby and I have been to counseling…it did not work.

    In the meantime I am miserable…Son and daughter one are taking advantage and not doing their share of the chores nor paying for the utilities. Daughter two, who wants to move out once she has enough saved, gives us no trouble.

    What do I do with my enabling husband? He doesn’t want to talk about the problem and gets annoyed every time I mention it.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Wow, not sure what to say Katley. Maybe if you can talk to your husband about the ultimate goal of parenting. Most of us agree that the idea is to raise independent adults that can go out and make a life for themselves. It doesn’t mean we don’t care or love them, it means we want them to have a good life of their own. Hope that helps.

  5. I have no issue with my children moving back home once they have finished university/college as long as they contribute one way or another to the household. Certainly it is not easy living with adult children, but they are my children. I am here to support them and if that means welcoming them back, I will with open arms.

    1. In my opinion adult non-disabled children should not be living at home indefinitely. As a parent it is your DUTY to not be an “enabler”-someone who makes it too easy and comfortable for adult children to stay at home without solid, realistic future plans.

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