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Study: Returning to the parental home

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The Daily

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Young people in the so-called Generation X, especially those born between 1972 and 1976, were three times as likely to return home to live with their parents as baby boomers were, according to a new study.

The study, published today in the online version of Canadian Social Trends, used data from the 2001 General Social Survey to examine patterns in the frequency with which young people have returned home over the last few decades. It examined their reasons for returning, and the socio-demographic and economic factors that influenced this process.

It found that the tendency to return home at least once has increased in each of five successive generations, starting with the first wave of baby boomers who were born between 1947 and 1951.

Among these early wave boomers, the probability of returning home within five years of first leaving was less than 12% for men and 10% for women.

In contrast, the probability for the later wave of Gen Xers (born between 1972 and 1976) was just about three times higher: 32% for men and 28% for women.

A number of factors help explain this growing trend. These include the increasing acceptance of common-law relationships (since such unions are more likely to break up than marriages); and the pursuit of higher education, which tends to leave young graduates with heavy student debts.

Other factors include financial difficulties; the reduced stigma attached to living with parents; wanting a standard of living impossible to afford on their own; the new and different roles of parents and children in families; and needing a parent's emotional support during the stressful transition to adulthood and independence.

These so-called "boomerang children" gave a number of reasons for returning home, the most common of which was related to education. Over one-quarter reported that it was either the end of the school year, or they had finished their program or quit school.

Another 25% returned the first time for financial reasons, while 12% said their job had ended. About 1 in 10 returned home with a broken heart, seeking their parents' support at the end of a relationship.

The boomerang children who most often returned for education-related reasons were those who had left to attend college or university.

The large majority of those who returned because they got into financial difficulty were those who had moved out to be independent or to attend school. Those who came back because their job had ended had most often left in order to take the job.

The study found that men who left to pursue their studies had a 32% higher chance of returning home than those who moved out because of a job. Women in this position had a 38% higher chance of returning home.

On the other hand, men who left home to form a union were about 76% less likely to return, while women had a 71% lower risk, when all other variables in the model are controlled for.

This confirms earlier research that has also found that departures for education or employment-related reasons have higher probabilities of boomeranging than adult children who leave to form a relationship.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4501.

The October 2006 issue of Canadian Social Trends, no. 82 (11-008-XWE, free) is now available from the Publications module of our website.

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