Generation of dependents: How long are people relying on mum and dad?



The time when people would marry and buy a house in their early twenties has long since passed, and given way to a generation of young adults who often live with their parents into their thirties and beyond.

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Several factors have been attributed to this growing trend, from rising house prices to a general expectation that young people will remain in education until the age of 21 and – in some cases – even later.

It appears that this will continue to be a problem in the years ahead, as well, with recent data published by EU agency Eurofound showing that the phenomenon is a continent-wide issue.

On the rise

In one of the most comprehensive social surveys of its kind, which spanned 28 European countries, the percentage of people aged 18 to 30 who were still living with their parents was found to have risen by 48 per cent – or 36.7 million people – over the course of four years.

Although factors such as deprivation and unemployment catalysed by the economic crisis were found to be at play, a key contributor appears to be the tendency to study much later into life.

However, the trend for parental dependency cannot be solely explained by increases in the number of people studying later into their life, as the report authors note that millions more 25- to 29-year-olds have been found to be living with mum and dad, well after their degrees or masters have been completed.

Gender divide

Men remain more likely to still be living with mum and dad, with 34 per cent fitting this description, compared with 26 per cent of women. However, the number of female 25 to 29-year-olds living with their parents is rising at a faster rate, with a four percentage point increase over the last four years, compared to three percentage points for men.

According to the report authors, the general situation of young people has “really fundamentally changed” and is a significant departure from the situations of their parents and grandparents.

“It’s not only the world of work that has changed, but society is changing, so the transitions are becoming much more unpredictable; people are not having a job for life or living in one place for life,” explained one of the report’s authors, Anna Ludwinek.

Generational predicament

Analysts say the data underscores the predicament of Generation Y, who are in many respects better educated than their forebears, but seemingly facing weaker prospects than their parents’ generation.

Separate UK-centric research carried out by Ipsos Mori focused on generational analysis of attitudes and found that the youngest generation feel under a significant amount of pressure, regarding themselves as poor even a few years into their careers, which is historically unusual.

“This echoes the Eurofound research – it’s not just those straight out of school or university who are finding it more difficult to get going with independent lives, it’s people well into their 20s and 30s,” explained report author Bobby Duffy.

Key factors

In many ways, analysts say the results demonstrate that class and background are becoming even more of a factor in later life success.

Mr Duffy added: “Those from better off or higher social class families will be much better set to deal with the pressures. The real story here isn’t about generation alone; it’s about how it interacts with wealth and class, leaving some younger people behind.”

One argument is that early exposure to such an environment can help to prepare people to deal with the realities of that way of living once education is complete, with schooling playing a key role in this.

Balancing act

The research also echoes a study carried out at the University of California, Los Angeles, which found that many children are being raised to become too dependent on their parents, subsequently hampering their future prospects.

The key finding was that families had a very child-centered focus, which may go some way to explaining the “dependency dilemma” seen among middle-class families, where parents intend to develop their children’s independence, yet raise them to be relatively dependent, even when the youngsters have the skills to act on their own.

It seems that a balancing act is the key to solving the problem of increasing financial – as well as emotional – dependence on parents and grandparents, but for now it appears to be a growing trend with no sign of abating.

Categories: All, Financial Advice, Parenting

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