Karen* had a tough decision to make. She was 28, her housemate had just married and moved out. “I didn’t want to live with another random,” she says. “I’m a teacher and it’s just not possible for me to rent a flat (in Cape Town) by myself.”
Her solution? Moving back in with her parents. “They live 4km from where I work,” Karen says. “It just made sense.”
This a temporary arrangement, Karen insists. She’ll move out once she gets a suitable housemate and an affordable place to stay. “Or when I get married,” she jokes.
It’s been 7 months since the move back home and things seem to be going very well. “We live well together,” she says. “It’s comfortable.” At the moment Karen and her parents split the electricity and food bills. She’s not paying rent, but believes this will change if she decides to live there full-time.
Karen is one of a growing set of millennials called the ‘Boomerang Generation’ – a generation of young people (typically 18 – 34 year olds) moving back in with their parents.
Even though statistics for South Africa aren’t readily available, this trend is booming in Europe and other Western Cultures.
According to The Guardian, a quarter of young adults in the UK are living with their parents. In the US, according to Pew Research Center, more millennial women are living with their parents than in the 1940s. Similar statistics are seen in many western countries.
But is this something seen in South Africa?
"I often come across young people between the ages of 23 - 30 years who still stay with their parents," says Leandri Beyers, a clinical psychologist from Johannesburg. “It is often the reason for consulting me as it causes psychological discomfort and conflict in relationships.”
Joanna Kleovoulou, a clinical psychologist from PyschMatters, agrees.
“For many it is a financial decision, as they either have been retrenched and cannot afford to carry a household any longer, or a joint financial decision to share expenses in order to cover costs or to save,” Kleovoulou says.
Children often move back to look after their parents or for their own emotional reasons.
Beyers adds that millennials moving back is often a symptom of dependence which could be unhealthy.
“The young adult might be scared to face independence or of the consequences it might have on the parental unit when the ‘nest’ is empty. This is often maintained by the parents through inducing guilt whenever the young adult attempts to become more independent.”
Drawbacks and gains
Both Beyers and Kleovoulou say there are certain developmental goals that are met when a person starts living by themselves, which become complicated to achieve when a child moves back.
“It has been found that young adults who fail in achieving these (developmental goals) often present with significant problems such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, substance dependence and also relationship difficulties,” Beyers says.
It’s important to be aware of your specific situation, though, and weigh up the drawbacks and gains before moving back.
“If you cannot survive every month on your own as an independent adult, but you insist on staying on your own, this will weigh heavy,” Kleovoulou says. “If you left home on terrible terms, and it is a toxic environment to go back into then you need to consider this too, for example.”
Thinking of moving back?
Whatever your situation may be, if you’re considering moving back, consider this advice from Kleovoulou and Beyers:
- Communicate. It’s important to alleviate expectations and figure out what roles everyone needs to play and contribute in the household.
- Boundaries. For you and for your parents. You’re not a teenager anymore - you’re capable of making your own decisions, but need to keep in mind the values of your parents’ home.