How parents feel when adult children return to the empty nest

written by Meena Azzollini

Mature Parents Frustrated With Adult Son Living At Home

Credit:123RF

When children leave home to move out and live on their own, parents find a way to cope and then they begin to enjoy this stage of life where they have the independence to do what they want thus finding a new equilibrium.

But what happens when adult children return to the empty nest? How do parents cope and feel?

When an adult child returned to an empty nest the scores went down to 0.8 points – a substantial effect on their parent’s quality of life.

With the rising cost of housing, excessive unemployment and job insecurity many children are forced to return home and according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, about a quarter of young adults in the UK are living with their parents – the highest number since records began in 1996.

The trend is similar all over Europe.

Previous studies have analysed the effects of adults who live with the parents, but this study undertaken by the London School of Economics is the first to examine the effect of returning children on their parents lives. Researchers call this move back to their parents’ house “boomerang moves.”

The researchers analysed longitudinal data of people aged 50 to 75 years from four waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in 17 European countries from 2007-2015 to examine whether returns to the parental home by adult children also known as the boomerang generation, are associated with changes in the quality of life of parents.

The Quality of Life measures -feelings of control, autonomy, pleasure and self-realisation in everyday life. The scale is based on 12 indicators and ranges from 12 to 48 points – higher scores indicating a better quality of life.

When an adult child returned to an empty nest the scores went down to 0.8 points – a substantial effect on their parent’s quality of life which is similar to developing an age-related condition such as difficulty with walking or getting dressed.

The researchers also explored the various reasons for returning home and after controlling for all these factors they found that the parents quality of life significantly declined when adult children returned home. This was largely reflected when children returned home to any empty nest where no other children were already living with their parents.

When children leave home, marital relationships of parents improve and their find new hobbies and activities which they begin to enjoy. Parents also begin to enjoy their independence and when adult children return home it seems to violate this independence resulting in a decline in the parent’s wellbeing.

Source: Social Science & Medicine


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!