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Entertainment of Friday, 23 December 2016


Lifestyle: To live or not live with parents; should you worry?

Family is our support system, often our cheerleaders, and in the best of all worlds, we turn to our parents in good times and bad. A new study suggests that the relationship with parents is quite similar whether or not you move back home as a young adult.

According to the Pew Research Center, more people between the ages of 18 and 34 are living with their parents than since the 1880s. The reasons are understandable—the economy, high rents, marrying later, wanting more education… Nonetheless, those in the throws of deciding whether or not to live in their childhood household (assuming they have a choice) have legitimate apprehension: How annoying will my parents be? How supportive?

Since writing Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily, which looked at the ups and downs of multigenerational living, I’ve heard plenty of fears over cohabitating with parents again. For some hesitation looms depending on how intrusive parents were when they were younger. Others dread the daily contact worrying that they will get on each other’s nerves and argue.

However, a recent study found that the relationships between cohabitating parents and adult children don’t differ drastically from those living apart. Karen Fingerman, professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas in Austin, and her colleagues probed the problems and pluses on a daily basis to discern how or if contact of those living or not living with parents differs. The young adults in the study were similar on most life issues such as money or job problems or on the positive or negative quality of their relationship with parents.

No Difference in Ties to Parents or Mood

For seven days, each participant wrote down how often they had contact with parents and noted their experiences related to the contact. Researchers wanted to know: How did day-to-day contact affect their mood? Is the intimacy of living together more irritating? Which arrangement is more supportive?

Given technology and cell phones, most adult children, especially those ages 18 to 30, have regular contact with their parents. Of course, in-person contact and parent involvement was highest for those living at home. In the study, whether or not they lived at home, all but two of the participants had contact with parents primarily during a phone call, but also by text, or email. During the course of the week, again almost all reported a pleasant encounter, defined as an “enjoyable interaction” or “sharing a laugh.”

A disparity showed up when researchers looked at “stressful encounters—parents get on nerves; irritating or annoying interaction.” Two-thirds of those living with parents reported a stressful event versus one-third of those who lived away, as one would expect.

Surprisingly, “In sum, coresident emerging adults were more involved with parents but not more affected by daily experiences with parents,” researchers noted. “…We expected coresidence to amplify effects of daily experiences with parents; that is, experiences with parents would influence well-being more when parties coresided. Yet, for the most part, experiences with parents were not associated with daily mood,” Fingerman concluded.

Additionally, according to the study, living together does not seem to negatively affect parent-child relationships. “Intergenerational coresidence does not undermine the grown children’s ties to parents or their daily mood.” If anything, when parents and children live together, there are more opportunities for experiences of any kind, including those that strengthen the bond.

Supportive Parenting Doesn’t End

Just as adult children living with parents is becoming more the norm, more parents remain supportive and involved (beyond financially) long after children reach adulthood.

In his book, Raising Human Beings, Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child, child psychologist Ross Greene emphasizes creating a partnership with your child during his growing-up years. Many parents believe their support and influence ends when children reach adulthood. Dr. Greene argues, “Not by a long shot…you still have experience, wisdom, and values to offer, and your kid may be even more receptive to what you’re bringing to the table. In fact, she may even seek it out.”

During the week of Fingerman’s study most of the participants—living or not at home—reported receiving “advice and emotional support” from their parents. In a nutshell, parents will always be parents and act that way whether or not you live with them during your emerging adult years.