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Busting the Myth that Living with Your Parents is Harmful

Busting the Myth that Living with Your Parents is Harmful

Young adults who live with their parents find that their relationships feel more tense, with higher highs and lower lows. But they are no worse off as a result of these daily experiences than young adults living elsewhere, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin.

Until recently, the norm for young adults in the United States was to leave their parents' home. The economic crisis in 2008, however, changed patterns rapidly and now over a third of adults between 18 and 30 years live with their parents. Although media accounts sometimes characterize living with parents disparagingly, little was known about the daily experiences of these parents and offspring—until now.

"Adults living with their parents have more face time with them, and as a result they both enjoy and are annoyed by their parents more often," says Karen Fingerman, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and primary investigator of the new study.

The study published today in Emerging Adulthood analyzed the daily parent-child interactions of 159 adult children who either reside with parents or live elsewhere. All adult children had a high level of contact with their parents. When any of these grown children had stressful thoughts, such as worrying about parents, they also experienced a poorer mood. The difference between adult children who lived with parents and the ones who did not, however, was in whether they had positive and negative interactions with their parents. Adult children living with parents were more likely to laugh with their parents and to experience positive encounters and receive support; they also were more likely to feel irritated and say that parents got on their nerves. When the authors controlled for the amount of contact, however, they found that adult children living in a family home were only more likely to share laughter with their parents.

"We thought living with parents would have a bigger impact on mood, but living with parents as an adult does not have an effect on your mood by itself. Any grown child who visits with a parent is likely to report enjoying that experience and being annoyed by the parent," says Fingerman. "But living together is different when it comes to humor—adult children and parents laugh more when they live in the same home. We can only speculate, but it might be that adult children who visit tend to be more task-oriented while children living with their parents have the repetition of shared jokes and experiences."

Additional authors include Meng Huo of UT Austin, Kyungmin Kim of the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Kira Birditt of the University of Michigan. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the MacArthur Network on an Aging Society and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development award to the Population Research Center at UT Austin.

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Tuesday, 07 February 2023

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