Adult children living at home for longer
Published Wednesday, September 12, 2007 8:53AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 6:51PM EDT
It's not that Thierry Harris doesn't want to grow up.
He's tried a few different jobs, different degrees, different apartments.
But when he found himself in a self-described professional and personal limbo, his parents' comfortable house in the Montreal suburbs beckoned like the flashing neon lights of the late-night pizza parlours from his university party days.
"I knew financially it would be smarter to move back with my folks while I just got things sort of sorted out,'' Harris, 27, said in an interview.
Choosing whether to listen to the devil urging independence or the angel whispering for fiscal restraint is one of the many conundrums facing a growing number of young adults who are no longer fleeing their parents' homes the minute they turn 18.
On Wednesday, Statistics Canada reported four million people aged 20 to 29 in Canada or 44 per cent lived with their parents, an almost three point jump from 2001.
In 1986, the figure was only 32 per cent.
Among people aged 20 to 24, 60 per cent were living with their parents in 2006, up from 49 per cent 20 years ago.
"Young people really are growing up in a very different social and economic climate than their parents did,'' said Barbara Mitchell, a sociologist at Simon Fraser University.
"Most of the reasons are tied to economic factors, so for example, young people need to go to school longer to get the same kind of credentials that their parents did to try and get into the labour market.''
Vaia Dimas' parents helped pay for her undergraduate degree, but when she decided to pursue higher education it was up to her to foot the bill.
Staying in her parents' Ottawa home was a logical choice, but also a cultural one _ another reason why so many young people are staying at home, as Canada's immigrant population expands.
As a Greek woman, Dimas said, it's expected that she'll remain at home until she's married. Her 27- and 25-year-old siblings are still there too.
"My friends who are Greek friends completely understand it,'' she said.
"It's the non-Greek ones who wonder about it, wonder more about the freedom aspect of it more than anything about living there.''
But that she's 29, unmarried, and still living in her parents' house is wearing thin. Dimas said the hunt has already begun for a place of her own, which her parents are fine with, she said.
"They just bug me all the time to get married,'' she joked.
Dimas' situation hits all the key notes of the impact more young people staying at home is having on society.
By staying in school longer, they enter the workforce later, making the possibility of fantastical Freedom 55 retirement plans even less likely.
Marrying later also means children will come later too, a delayed-life transition that researchers have found has serious implications.
"They're not starting families and it means there will be less children born as people delay,'' said Roderic Beaujot, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario in London.
"That means our fertility will remain low. People will have fewer children than they would have liked to have had because they haven't started doing it sooner.''
Though young adults remain at home for cultural and economic pressures, the ability to stay there is also linked to that other great adolescent pressure _ sex.
They don't need to get married to have it anymore, so one of the greatest historical incentives for young adults to leave home has vanished.
"Once people are married and have children, they are pushed to have achievements at work, to maintain and increase their income,'' Beaujot said.
"There is not the kind of push that comes from that when people stay at home longer. So, if they can take time off, go and travel, (these are) all good things I think, but it means they are not pushed to becoming fully in dependant at all.''
Part of that, argues one recent book, starts in the teenage years.
Dr. Robert Epstein, author of the Case Against Adolescence, argues that society is spending too much time telling teens what they can't do as opposing to recognizing that they can.
He said his research finds that teens are as competent as adults and in many areas, like joining the military or getting married, should be allowed the same privileges.
Continuing to infantilize teens by pigeon-holing them into a culture of vapid and largely negative stereotypes and controlled by increasing regulations, simply creates a generation incapable of believing or knowing what they're capable of, the book suggests.
Moving back in, Harris said, has taken some renegotiation of the parent-child relationship, especially avoiding the teen-type bickering that characterized their encounters years ago.
"I consciously try to watch out for that because it's not treating them with respect,'' he said. "I feel bad about it afterward and realize that this is the reality. It's not easy.''