Are young Europeans part of a “boomerang generation“? Throughout early adulthood, will they be forced to return several times to live with their parents? As the labour market grows more flexible, with young people today expected to change jobs – and even careers – multiple times, should the way we think of “growing up” also become more flexible?

In the United Kingdom, more than a quarter of young adults (aged 20-34) live with their parents – the highest number since 1996 when records began. The trend is echoed across Europe, and research suggests it can have a negative impact on the psychological wellbeing of both young adults and their parents.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Martina, who argues that many young Europeans today can’t afford to rent property, and many live with their parents into their 30s. She sees this as a bad thing. Is she right? How old is too old to live with your parents?

To get a response, we spoke to Liz Emerson, Co-Founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a UK-based independent charity promoting intergenerational fairness, working for the interests of younger and future generations. What would she say?

Martina is absolutely right. In the UK, in 1997, 2.4 million young people lived with their parents. By 2017, that had risen to 3.4 million young people. And the reason they’re having to live with their parents is because of high house prices. If you are a young person living in London, you are having to find 12 times your salary for housing, and the same is happening across Europe. But young people can change the situation, as has been shown in Berlin, with rent strikes since May 2019, I believe, and the Berlin protests have seen 10’000 to 40’000 people protesting against their rents doubling in Berlin over the last 10 years.

It’s particularly pertinent on mainland Europe because, of course, in countries like Germany 85% of the population rent. In the UK, we want to be homeowners, so young people here aspire to owning a home of their own, but 50% of them will never be able to do that and are now having to rent like their counterparts across Europe.

For another perspective, we also spoke to Dr. Claus Koch, a German psychologist, journalist, and author of many books, including about the challenges of growing up and leaving the home. What would he say?

This is the phenomenon of the so-called ‘boomerang generation’ that we often read about in the press. I’m somewhat cautious in my judgement of this because often they say things like ‘young adults are too lazy to move out’, ‘they want to continue enjoying the protection from their family’ and so on. That probably is true for some individuals but by no means all. If you look at the numbers, 75% of young adults still live at home when they are 20 but by the time they are 30, its only 10% – so it’s not the overwhelming majority who stay at home. The complex reasons for this should be taken into consideration.

There is the simple economic side that, in university towns, the cost of living and, above all, the rent prices have become so expensive that many young people decide to – purely for cost reasons – to continue to live with their parents.

It’s also about, and this is perhaps the most important reason, the fact that the generational conflict between parents and young people is simply no longer as strongly present as was the case 50 years ago. When I was young, after the end of high school, it wasn’t even a question, we were moving out because we simply couldn’t see eye-to-eye with our parents in the ’60s and ’70s. That is no longer the case today and this can also be scientifically proven. Studies on youth show that the vast majority of young people say that they want to raise their children the same way that they themselves have been raised…

How old is too old to live with your parents? Are young Europeans living at home for longer than previous generations? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: CC – BY 2.0 / Flickr – bradleypjohnson; Portrait Credits: Koch © Stefan Gelberg

33 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Balcony Gardener

    1 day online and not one comment. Nobody cares about this topic.

  2. avatar

    Or, how young is too young to live with your children ?

  3. avatar

    Till late 30s. Its the European way of life

  4. avatar

    Sorry, how does sticking your nose into other people’s family arrangements square with the idea of “tolerance”, “diverse lifestyles”, and all that happy talk?
    Do you realize that for most of the world, for most of history, multi-generational households have been the norm?
    I dare you to go to a village in Papua New Guinea and tell people tey are too old to live with their parents.

    • avatar

      bang TO RIGHTS..MY Take EXACTLY

  5. avatar

    According to each personal project.

  6. avatar

    The sooner you leave the parents’ house, the better. During the first year of college, one needs to move out. So I’d say 19 – 21. Even if one doesn’t go to college, 19 – 21. I sure don’t want my kids to live in my house in their late 20s or 30s. They need to learn to be independent and face the realities of life at an early age. The younger the better.

    • avatar

      Cosmin I’m in my second year of college and I’m still with my parents, because I simply can’t afford to move out. It depends on people’s personal circumstances.

    • avatar

      That was just my personal take on it. :) The circumstances are different from one individual to another. :)

  7. avatar

    That is a personal choice , and not a matter for public debate, so just butt out

  8. avatar

    Until we as a society don’t fix this mess of unstable work

    • avatar

      Alex not only. How about expensive properties?

    • avatar

      Galina it’s all connected, it’s the failure of modern capitalism

    • avatar

      Alex absolutely !

    • avatar

      Alex some people will never have enough

  9. avatar

    Never. There are families who like to see grandchildren on the same table of the dinner, under the same roof

  10. avatar

    Most people live because in Europe the rent is higher then the salary so how can you rent or eve dream to buy your home?? Why EU doesn’t do nothing about it?

  11. avatar

    It all depends on the circumstances….. better to live with your parents than to be homeless on the streets as is more and more the case for many young people.

  12. avatar

    Mind your onwn ask this because you think that there is a normal age for leaving ?

  13. avatar

    very simple … leave when to can pay your own way in life …

  14. avatar
    Aerts Gabrielle

    Young people need a job to have an income to move out with their parents. And an affordable living space.

  15. avatar

    Every situation is different each to their own and exactly mind your own business

  16. avatar

    Going by the rents in Dublin. And the deposit you need to buy your own home. I am so glad I am in my mid 50es. Me and my husband rent a room to a Swedish art student. We did not set the fee. We used a company to find the right person for us. And it works for her and us. But I moved out my parents home at 24. And I never looked back.

  17. avatar

    ell I’m 37 and still living at home with my dad but this is due to me having a massive brain hemorrhage around 6 years ago!?! Now I’m unemployed but not addicted to nicotine anymore!?! But I do believe that marijuana should be legal absolutely everywhere on our beautiful planet!?!

  18. avatar

    Personally I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business who lives with their parents and for how long, if it’s not costing you money or inconvenience why should you bother about it .

  19. avatar

    When your parents yell you to get tf out.

  20. avatar

    What about minding your own business ? My grandparents lived with their parents until they could afford their own house. My mom was 8 by then.

  21. avatar

    now a days its never to old just depends in witch country you live

  22. avatar

    Well I’m definitely too old to live with parents… but I can afford it.
    I’m not ashamed because I can’t do anything about it.

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