Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Exiting and Returning to the Parental Home for Boomerang Kids

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Exiting and Returning to the Parental Home for Boomerang Kids

Article excerpt

During the past decade, young adults experienced many changes with regard to family formation patterns and economic factors in the United States (Shanahan, 2000; Thornton & Young-DeMarco, 2001). The pathway to adulthood became less standardized and more individualized as prior social institutions, such as marriage, weakened (Cherlin, 2004; Settersten & Gannon, 2005). Furthermore, the emergence of a global economy and changing labor market requirements allowed for greater flexibility and diversity in the workplace (Brückner & Mayer, 2005). The pathway to adulthood is no longer marked by early achievement of stable, full-time employment; instead, young adults commonly experience greater instability and fluidity in the workplace (Furstenberg, Rumbaut, &Settersten, 2005).

In the United States, young adults emphasize educational and employment pursuits concurrently, and this exploration and instability are normative during this transitional period (Arnett, 2000). Because of increased globalization and a shiftto an information-driven economy, youth pursue higher education and training at greater rates in order to obtain decent earnings and employment (Furstenberg et al., 2005). As a result of these economic changes, youth ages 20-24 were more likely to have lived with their parents in the 2000s compared to youth in the 1980s (Qian, 2012; Settersten & Ray, 2010); approximately 30% of young adults coreside with parents (Lichter & Qian, 2004). Moreover, 40% of these young adults return to their parental home at least once after living independently (Goldscheider & Goldscheider, 1994) and are often termed boomerang kids (e.g., Mitchell, 1998).

Despite the common occurrence of boomerang kids, youth live in a society where self-achievement and autonomy are highly valued (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002); failure to "do it yourself" by sustaining independent living is viewed negatively. Indeed, boomerang kids often represent a drain on parental resources in the popular press (Grind, 2013), and a common perception is that returning to live with parents may be indicative of stunted development (Newman, 2013). Although mental health problems have been linked to difficulty transitioning to adulthood in general (Gralinski-Bakker, Hauser, Billings, & Allen, 2005), the explicit assumption that boomerang kids are stunted has not been tested empirically. Thus, although overall diversity in pathways to adulthood appears to be more tolerated by society, this tolerance may not extend to these boomerang kids.

Existing studies commonly link demographic, family formation, and family-of-origin characteristics to home leaving and returning behavior (Goldscheider & Goldscheider, 1994), yet the role of mental health problems, such as depression and alcohol abuse, has been relatively ignored by most research. Furthermore, few studies have examined the socioeconomic context that likely contributes to youth exits from and returns to the parental home. Using a contemporary sample of young adults, we provide in this study one of the first explorations into the role of mental health and economic factors in the home leaving and returning process. By empirically identifying new factors that may contribute to home leaving and returning, we hope to provide insight into a relatively common event that may contribute to negative parent and young adult outcomes.

Life Course Perspective

A life course perspective illustrates how life changes influence development across one's life; specific emphasis is placed on life transitions, developmental states, and life course trajectories (Elder, 1998). Under this perspective, the concept of linked lives, which states that individual lives are experienced interdependently, is a key principle (Elder, Johnson, & Crosnoe, 2003). A youth's decision to exit the parental home and later return to the parental home is shaped in part by large societal changes. For instance, changes in the labor market requiring more education and delayed labor force participation (Corcoran & Matsudaira, 2005) are likely to influence youth behavior with regard to exiting or returning to the parental home. …

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