Clark Poll: Parents welcome emerging adults back to the nest

Clark University Prof. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, director of the Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults Prof. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, director of the Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults

Parents of 18- to 29-year-old emerging adults feel so positive about their relationships with their children that they welcome them back home, according to a new 2013 Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults, which has become the definitive national survey of this demographic group.

In contrast to the popular perception that parents don’t want their emerging adult children at home, 61 percent of parents in the Clark University poll respond “mostly positive” and only 6 percent feel “mostly negative” with an arrangement where their 18- to 29-year-old children are living at home or have moved back home. Nearly 67 percent of parents said that a consequence of their emerging adult children living with them is that they feel closer to their children emotionally, while 66 percent report they have more companionship with their children. Nearly the same percentage of parents (62 percent) said their children help with household responsibilities. None of the possible negative consequences of having a grown child at home ranked nearly as high, but 40 percent
of parents did agree that it results in more financial stress.

Visit the Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults online for more information

“The perception that most parents are grumbling when their 18- to 29-year-old kids are living with them is utterly false,” says Clark University research professor of psychology and poll director Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Ph.D., who coined the term “emerging adulthood.” “Parents understand their kids face an unstable job market, poorly-paid first jobs, high rents and unstable relationships — a vastly different world than they may have faced 30 to 40 years ago. Instead of applying negative stereotypes, such as laziness and selfishness, to their children, our research shows that parents actually embrace their grown kids’ situations, welcome them back to the nest, communicate with them often and know their need for their parents’ support is temporary, not terminal.”

The Clark University Poll of Parents of Emerging Adults reveals how parents feel about their grown-up children with regard to a wide range of issues, including financial support, what makes a person an adult, moving out of the parents’ home, moving back in again, and what the future holds for both parents and child. The Poll is based on 1,029 interviews of parents of 18- to 29-year-olds nationwide. The margin of error is +/- 3.06 percent. A mixed-mode methodology was used for this project.

Simultaneously, Arnett is releasing the first and only parenting guide for this stage: When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult (Workman; May 2013). Some of the book’s tips for parents of emerging adult children living at home include discussing:

  • Do the emerging adults have a plan while living at home — for instance, more education, networking and job applications, part-time or volunteer work?
  • Is there an end date or is the living arrangement open-ended?
  • Will the children pay rent, contribute to household expenses, or provide other kinds of regular help?
  • Can romantic partners sleep over?

The book demonstrates why this emerging adult life stage — which, to parents, may look like flailing — actually helps children become happier, healthier grown-ups.