Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Making the Move: Cultural and Parental Influences on Canadian Young Adults' Homeleaving Decisions*

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Making the Move: Cultural and Parental Influences on Canadian Young Adults' Homeleaving Decisions*

Article excerpt


The decision to leave the parental home is an important life course event that most young adults contemplate during their transition to adulthood. Moreover, homeleaving decisions have undergone dramatic transformation in many Western industrialized societies. Notably, this decision has evolved from one that was once highly subject to kinship approval and the continuation of traditional family patterns to one that is based on "free choice" and individualistic pursuits (Alwin, 1988; Lesthaeghe, 1995). This is evidenced by the fact that young people are increasingly likely to state that they are leaving parental "nests" in order to achieve "independence" rather than to marry (Boyd and Norris, 2000; Ravenera, Rajulton and Burch, 1995). However, while these broad trends signify a revolution in family processes of "child launching," they mask the diversity of cultural contexts that exist within Canada, particularly since this country is increasingly characterized as a multicultural society. Indeed, there may be important variations with regard to level of involvement and the role that parents from different ethnic groups play in young adults' homeleaving decisions.

To date, studies on patterns of homeleaving and intergenerational coresidence in North America present evidence of cultural diversity. Notably, Boyd (2000) finds that ethnic origin is one of the strongest predictors of homeleaving timing in Canada. In particular, young adults from Greek, Italian, Balkan, Portuguese and many Asian origins remain at home the longest. Young women from these groups have lower rates of homeleaving than their male age peers, which is opposite to the general pattern observed among unmarried young adults in Canada. However, while this growing area of research documents the importance of ethnic variations, in addition to other socio-demographic factors, virtually all of it focuses on the determinants (or consequences) of homeleaving timing and/or intergenerational coresidence, (e.g., Gee, Mitchell & Wister, in press; Goldscheider & Goldscheider, 1999; Mitchell, 1998; Mitchell, Wister & Gee, 2003; Zhao et al, 1995).

Within the context of "push" factors out of parental nests, no known Canadian studies focus on the role that parents from specific ethnocultural backgrounds play in young adult's homeleaving decisions. This lack of attention is primarily due to data limitations, but is surprising given that parents are the single most powerful influence in the socialization of their children (Tesson, 1987). As such, parents can transmit unique cultural traditions, beliefs, and expectations and this can dramatically shape the kinds of choices and opportunities young adults make during the "launching" phase of family development.

Given these gaps in the literature, the primary focus of this paper is to examine the ethnocultural context in which parents influence their children's decision to leave home. A secondary objective is to examine relationships among levels of parental influence, pathways out of the parental home, and other family background and socio-demographic factors (e.g., parent-child relationship quality, family structure, gender) deemed to be important in the literature. The four ethnocultural groups selected for this study are Canadian young adults of British, Chinese, Indian sub-continent, and South European origins. These groups were chosen on the basis of their relative diversity and because they are some of the most common ethnic groups in Canada, and especially in large metropolitan cities.


A comparative, cross-cultural approach is drawn upon in order to examine the ethnocultural context in which parents influence young adult's decision to leave home (e.g., Goode, 1963; Hendricks & Hendricks, 1987). This approach asserts that every culture provides a set of prescribed and proscribed norms, values and behaviours associated with family life. …

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