Boomerang sons have it better

They’re back, but are they welcome? By now, you’ve heard of “boomerang kids” — grown-up children who move back in with their parents, often due to financial issues. While their numbers are increasing, a recent survey reveals new a twist to this trend: boomerang sons have a distinct advantage over boomerang daughters.

Commissioned by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment ahead of the DVD release of Cyrus, the “Flying the Nest” study polled 3000 UK residents over the age of 18 who currently live with their parents along with 1500 mothers and fathers currently hosting a grown-up child. While it’s only a single survey, the results offer some insight on how parents feel about their back-to-the-nest offspring.

The results? Not only are boomerang sons looked upon more favourably than daughters, they’re also treated to more perks and more cash. Here’s a closer look at the findings.

Boomerang daughters versus sons

It’s no secret that sons are often treated differently than daughters, and you can bet that habit carries over into adulthood. According to the survey, parents were three times more likely to let a son move back home than a daughter. In fact, more than half of mothers reported they were happy their sons had moved back in while only 18 per cent felt they had “overstayed their welcome.”

Once they’ve got their foot in the door, boomerang sons continue to have the advantage. The survey discovered that near 60 per cent of parents admitted to spoiling their sons while only 35 per cent lavished the same benefits on daughters. Parents are more likely to cook their meals, do their laundry and even chauffeur them around town than their daughters.

The bias hits home too — the household budget, that is. According to the survey, sons ask for money more often and receive more cash gifts than daughters (though daughters tended to borrow more money). Just how much? On average, sons receive over 624.18 pounds (about $1000) in monetary gifts during their stay. With comforts like these, many parents fear their sons will become a little too comfortable and not move out again.

However, despite all the extra work and expenses, parents still see sons as better extended house guests than their daughters. Why, exactly? According to the respondents, sons are twice as likely to pay rent as daughters and parents view them as more likely to help out around the house. They’re thought to be better listeners too: parents report they’re more open to advice about careers and romance.

So are daughters getting the proverbial short end of the stick? You be the judge: the survey discovered that daughters are typically seen as being lazier than sons and less likely to contribute to the household. However, critics of the survey note that the results tend to emphasize the mother-son relationship, and it’s possible mothers are more willing to look after their adult sons while daughters are expected to provide care to others rather than receive it.

The impact on parents

Regardless of the sex of their boomerang child, having another mouth to feed is taking its toll on parents. Like other studies, this survey found that many adults move back in with mom and dad under financial duress — often because of a job loss, debt or divorce. Many boomerang kids are unemployed or underemployed, and some even have substance abuse problems.

What affect is this having on parents? Half of respondents wish their adult children hadn’t moved home again, though they understood why it was a necessity. One fifth of parents are embarrassed by the situation.

The survey also found:

– Less than half of boomerang kids pay rent. On average, parents receive about 111 pounds (less than $200) per month in rent, despite the fact that their offspring aren’t pitching in at home to compensate.

– On average, household bills go up by about 17 per cent when an adult child moves back in.

– Those monetary gifts have a greater cost. Just over 40 per cent of respondents admitted to dipping into their savings to help out their adult children.

– Having the kids back at home puts a strain on parents’ relationships. Nearly one third of respondents say they have more fights, and 16 per cent have considered downsizing just to get rid of their houseguest.

Canada’s boomerang kids

While these results are interesting for debate, the limited scope of the survey only offers a glimpse at a complex issue. Sometimes the lines aren’t so clear between younger adults who “boomerang” versus those who “fail to launch.”

What does the reality look like for Canadian families? Recent numbers from a Statistics Canada survey show that 51 per cent of Generation Y ages 20 to 29 were living with their parents in 2011. When members of Generation X were the same age, only 31 per cent still lived at home. Compare that to the boomers: only 28 per cent lived at home during that stage.

Think it’s due to unemployment? Guess again — the study also showed that Gen Y were more likely than previous generations to be employed during their 20s. The main reason they’re staying at home: to save money. With rising costs across the board and student debt, some experts feel it’s harder for “kids these days” to get a financial start.

Surprised? Previous statistics support the same trend. According the “Family Counts” report from the Vanier Institute for the Family, there was a significant increase in the number of adult children living at home from 1981 to 2006 (the most recent year for which census data is available).

The report notes that roughly 60 per cent of young adults aged 20-24 lived in their parents’ home in 2006 — an increase of 40 per cent over the previous 25 years. In addition, 26 per cent of young adults aged 25-29 lived at home — more than double the rate from 1981.

The report attributes these rising numbers to factors like the economy — namely rising costs of living, unemployment and a lack of jobs — but there are positive reasons too. In Canada and the U.S., experts note that the increase in younger adults still living at home coincides with an increase in post-secondary education. Additionally, many still-at-home adults live in major urban centres with large immigrant populations, so different lifestyles and familial expectations could play a role.

Regardless of what you think of the “Flying the Nest” survey, the Vanier Institute’s data notes there is some difference between men and women — and it’s the sons who are more likely to stay around or return. As of 2006, 65 per cent of men aged 20-24 and 30 per cent of men aged 25-29 lived with their parents compared to 55 per cent of women aged 20-24 and 20 per cent of women aged 25-29.

While we don’t have current data on the boomerang or “failure to launch” trends factoring in the latest economic downturn, experts generally don’t expect them to decline in a hurry. In the meantime, it’s up to parents to decide how much support they’re prepared to offer — and for how long.

Read more about the “Flying the Nest” survey here.

Sources: Reuters, Statistics Canada, UK Daily Mail, The Vancouver Sun, The Vanier Institute for the Family.

Photo © digitalskillet

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