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Study: Fleeing the parental nest to independence

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The Daily

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Young adults are taking longer to leave the parental nest than their parents did, according to a new study examining transitions out of the home across five generations.

The study, published today in the August 2006 electronic issue of Canadian Social Trends, focuses on early baby boomers born between 1947 and 1956, and Generation X born between 1967 and 1976.

These people were interviewed as part of the General Social Survey in 2001 when the early (Wave 1) baby boomers were aged 45 to 54, and the Gen Xers were aged 25 to 34.

The study found that a male Wave 1 boomer had a 49% to 59% probability of leaving home for the first time before his 22nd birthday. However, the likelihood dropped to between 46% and 53% for Generation X males.

One factor was the economy. Economic conditions changed considerably between these two time periods. Well-paying unionized jobs were not nearly as plentiful, and real wages for young workers had declined, reducing the incentive for independence from the family home.

(Coincidentally, census data found a growing trend among young adults to remain in, or return to, the parental home. The census showed that 41% of the 3.8 million young adults aged 20 to 29 lived with their parents in 2001, a jump from 27% in 1981. Much of the increase occurred during the early 1990s.)

The study identified key socio-demographic factors associated with the likelihood of leaving home for the first time, regardless of the generation. Many factors associated with adult children leaving home sooner rather than later were beyond a parent's control.

It found that stepfamilies and multiple siblings were factors leading to early departures.

Women who spent at least part of their childhood in a step-family had a 57% higher probability of leaving at a younger age than women who grew up in an intact family, that is, one where both biological parents were present. Men raised in a step-family also had a 30% greater likelihood of leaving home earlier.

Growing up in a large family was also associated with independence sooner rather than later. Men with three siblings had a 20% greater chance of moving out of the family home compared to someone the same age with only one sibling.

Similarly, women had a 13% greater chance. And having four brothers or sisters at home made it even more likely that a young person would leave home early.

Other factors concerned geographic location, incomes and education levels. People who spent at least part of their childhood in the West were most likely to leave home early. Compared to adults who grew up in Quebec, women from the Prairies had a 64% greater chance and men a 54% higher likelihood of launching earlier from the nest.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4501.

The August 2006 issue of Canadian Social Trends, Vol. 82 (11-008-XWE, free) is now available from the Our Products and Services page of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services and Dissemination (613-951-5979;, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.