Do Young Mothers and Fathers Differ in the Likelihood of Returning Home?

By Guzzo, Karen Benjamin | Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2016 | Go to article overview

Do Young Mothers and Fathers Differ in the Likelihood of Returning Home?


Guzzo, Karen Benjamin, Journal of Marriage and Family


In American society, it is widely accepted that the young adult years are a time of immense change and multiple transitions (Arnett, 2000; Settersten & Ray, 2010). As young adults-those younger than age 30-try to figure out their long-term plans and goals, they move in and out of households, relationships, schooling, and jobs. Coresidence with parents-either through living with parents continuously or "boomeranging" back home-is common during this period (Fry, 2013; Newman, 2013). Although most of the transitions are reversible-one can break up with a partner, go back to school, or change jobs-becoming a parent is not. In 2006-2010, about 55% of women and 42% of men ages 25-29 were parents (Martinez, Daniels, & Chandra, 2012).

Thus, the instability that typically accompanies young adulthood presents several challenges overall, but some may be unique to young parents. One of these challenges is logistical: Where, and with whom, do young parents live? Although parents are less likely to move back home than nonparents (Stone, Berrington, & Falkingham, 2014), young parents' unstable relationships and low incomes may impede residential independence. As multigenerational households have become increasingly common, with the modal category consisting of a householder (grandparent generation, or G1), an adult child (middle generation, or G2), and a grandchild (G3; Lofquist, 2012), the growing body of research on the topic has largely focused on the grandparents (e.g., Keene & Batson, 2010; Stykes, Manning, & Brown, 2014) or the grandchildren (e.g., Dunifon, Ziol-Guest, & Kopko, 2014; Kreider & Ellis, 2011). The living arrangements of the middle generation remains an understudied topic beyond some work on teen parents (Trent & Harlan, 1994), minority parents (Cohen & Casper, 2002), and young mothers who are disadvantaged (Pilkauskas, 2012). Young fathers have received less attention, yet they, too, may return to their own parents' home. Because the reasons young mothers and fathers return home may differ, this article examines gender differences in the likelihood of returning to the parental home among young parents using several waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97).

Background

From a life course perspective, leaving the parental home is a key step in the transition to adulthood, and the age at home leaving has been gradually rising (Furstenberg, 2010). In 2012, more than one third of young adults ages 18-31 lived with their own parents (Fry, 2013). Along with social changes in the meaning and desirability of adulthood (Kimmel, 2008), long-term economic shifts have impeded young adults' ability to achieve independence because moving-and staying-out of the parental home is partially dependent on the labor market (Bell, Gurtless, Gornick, & Smeeding, 2007; Card & Lemieux, 2000). Returning to home is so common, in fact, that there is a term for these young adults: "boomerang kids" (Newman, 2013).

Young Mothers and Fathers

Economic and structural impediments to the transition to independence (Newman, 2013) have dominated the research on boomerang kids, so little is known about young parents' experiences of multigenerational living, and this is a major oversight. Because many young adults are parents, the return of young parents (G2) into their own parents' (G1) household can mean their own children (G3) are potentially experiencing residential changes and multigenerational households, both of which are generally negatively linked to well-being among children (Adam, 2004; Black et al., 2002), though some studies have found that multigenerational living is beneficial for children (DeLeire & Kalil, 2002). Some characteristics, such as the middle generation's (G2) age at birth, race/ethnicity, and G1 family factors (i.e., structure, maternal education, maternal age at birth) have been identified as correlates of multigenerational living among young parents (Caputo, 2001; Cohen & Casper, 2002; Trent & Harlan, 1994). …

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