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More parents than partners
May 30, 2016
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by Ivan Raconteur

For the first time in 130 years, more people in the US age 18-34 are living with their parents than in any other kind of living arrangement, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

It seems 32.1 percent of people in that age group live in their parents’ house, 31.6 live with a spouse or partner in their own house, and 14 percent live alone, as single parents, or with roommates or renters.

The rest live with another family member, a non-family member, or in group-living situations such as a college dorm or prison.

I can’t help thinking there must be a lot of parents out there who had been planning to spread their wings and enjoy the next phase of their lives, only to find their nests cluttered with the offspring, either those who were reluctant to fly away in the first place, or who returned after getting a taste of the big cruel world.

I’m not suggesting living with one’s family is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there can be benefits for parents and their adult children in these cases.

I think it comes down to expectations.

If a parent was looking forward to having some additional freedom after 18 years (or more) of taking care of their kids, it may come as a disappointment to find the children clinging to the old homestead like limpets.

Perhaps the parents were looking forward to the day they could turn little Johnny or Suzie’s bedroom into an art studio, or a fitness room, or a nice home office.

Those plans can get complicated when there are squatters in residence, especially if Johnny or Suzie returns to the nest and brings additional residents, such as partners, spouses, or children of their own.

No doubt some parents enjoy the extra contact with their family, but it seems that clear and open communication about boundaries and expectations is a key to success in these situations.

The current percentage of young people living with their parents is not a record. According to the Pew study, 35 percent of young people lived with their parents in 1940.

It does seem significant, however, that for the first time since 1880, more people are living with parents than partners.

Part of this reflects a change in social trends.

According to the Pew study, most common arrangement for young people in 1880 was living with a romantic partner.

This trend peaked about 1960, when 62 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds in the US were living with a spouse or partner in their own household, and only one in five were living with their parents.

Rather than getting married, more young people today are choosing to live with mom and pop.

Employment is also a factor.

In 1960, 84 percent of young men had jobs. In 2014, according to Pew, only 71 percent of 18 to 34 year-old men had jobs.

These are complex issues.

When I was younger, guys who were unemployed and lived in their parents’ basement had a more difficult time getting dates.

I think it’s fair to say we suspected people like that of lacking motivation and self-reliance.

Whatever stigma was attached to being unemployed and living with parents seems to have disappeared.

Most of my contemporaries and I took whatever jobs we could find, and we felt lucky to have them.

We were shrewd enough to realize no one was going to offer us a job as company president or CEO right out of school. We knew we would have to pay our dues and work our way up to get better jobs.

Today, it seems many young people have a sense of entitlement, and if they aren’t offered some sort of dream job right away, they won’t accept any job at all.

I’ve heard from a number of employers who say the work ethic of new employees is very different than it once was.

For example, if an employer makes unreasonable demands such as expecting an employee to show up for work on time, and then actually work while he is on the clock, rather than texting his friends or surfing social media sites, the employee may just go out for lunch and never come back.

When I was young, my friends and I couldn’t wait to leave our parents’ nests.

Freedom and independence were precious to us, and we were willing to put up with a lot to earn them.

We may have faced cramped and uncomfortable quarters, based on what we could afford, but they were ours, and that was the important part.

For most of us, it was not that we disliked our parents; we were simply driven to get out on our own.

There seems to be less independent spirit these days. There also seems to be less commitment to jobs or relationships.

I wish all the parents out there the best of luck. Something tells me they are going to need it.


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