Box 4
Adult children in the parental home: An enduring phenomenon

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Generally, the share of individuals who remain as children in their parental home decreases with age. However, there has been a clear delay in children leaving the parental home to establish their own households over the last 40 years.  From 1971 to 2011, the largest proportional increases in ’children’ occurred among those in their late twenties. For example, the share of 27 year-olds who were living as children in census families increased from 8.6% in 1971 to 23.0% in 2011 (see Figure B2).

Figure B2 proportion (in percentage) of the population aged 15 to 30 in private households in Canada living as children in census families, by single year of age in 1971, 1991 and 2011

Description for figure B2

Is this a new phenomenon? The 1937 manuscript Dependency of Youth: A Study Based on the Census of 1931 and Supplementary DataNote 1 provides an interesting perspective. It documents the increasing average age of youth ‘independence’ (meaning no longer attending school) from age 16 in 1911 to age 18 in 1931:

Delayed independence creates problems in the home, in the community, and in the lives of the individual boys and girls….Some increase in the average length of schooling during recent decades has undoubtedly been permissible…but the tendency to keep the young people in the ordinary schools as boys and girls can hardly be allowed to go on indefinitely, as it seems inclined to do.Note 2

A growing increase in the prevalence of young adults in their twenties living in the parental home was predicted at that time:

As the age of leaving school becomes higher and higher, it represents a more and more serious problem.  We have seen that independence is not reached until young people are well on into their nineteenth year, and if the tendency of the last generation continues, they will in comparatively few years still be dependent on parents when reaching their twenties.Note 3

Figure B3 Lengthened dependency of young people in Canada as illustrated by loss in wages and increase in schooling

Description for figure B3

The conditions described in 1931 echo the experiences of many modern-day families with older children:

[a]nd in addition to those staying in school is the further larger number who have fallen into idleness between school and their first job, or by reason of having made a mistaken or unfortunate start in employment.Note 4

The topic of young adults living in the parental home still generates interest 75 years later. By 2011, over 4 in 10 (42.3%) young adults aged 20 to 29 lived in the parental home, including close to 6 in 10 20- to 24-year-olds (59.3%) and a quarter of 25- to 29-year-olds (25.2%).Note 5 Young adults in the new millennium may live with their parents as a source of emotional or financial support, among other reasons.


  1. Robbins, J.E. 1937.  Dependency of Youth: A Study Based on the Census of 1931 and Supplementary Data,1931 Census monograph no. 9, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-1931CM-9.
  2. Robbins, 1937, page 54.
  3. Robbins, 1937, page 54.
  4. Robbins, 1937, page 54.
  5. Milan, A. and N. Bohnert. 2012. "Living arrangements of young adults aged 20 to 29", Census in Brief, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-312-X-2011003. The measurement of young adults in the parental home in this Census in Brief refers to those based on economic family status. This is different than the number of children in census families, who, based on the census definition, have no spouse, partner or children of their own in the same household.
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