Happy Boomerang Kids?
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR reports on the fast-developing tend for adult children to continue to live with their parents well into their twenties and even thirties. Maybe 30% of so-called "young adults" are now "boomerang kids."
We read that the BKs often blame their living situation on a weak economy, which keeps them from being able to find good jobs.
But we also read that their parents' generosity allows them to be picky in pursuing employment possibilities. So they can choose against "traditional" jobs that don't pay much and might cause them struggle on their own.
BKs report, a bit surprisingly, that they're pretty happy with their living situations and often in no hurry to move on.
They also claim that it's the economy that's causing them to delay getting married and having kids. But (obviously) if they had strong longings to engage in such characteristically adult behavior, they'd be more open to the risky business of moving out now. Or they would have their spouse and kids move in with the parents too, as was quite common not that long ago.
The parents who report that they're happy to have their kid or kids not leave home—because of the loving intergenerational bonds such an arrangement favors—might be even happier to have the grandkids living with them too.
But the evidence, to repeat, is that their kid is usually happier to stick round as, in effect, their kid and nothing more.
To make some tentative and lighhearted connections with some of my earlier posts:
The BK trend might reduce the amount of "grey divorce" occuring among people in their fifties. Staying together for the kids might, once again, start to approach until death do us part.
The Tea Partiers might be right that the dismantling of the welfare state might restore stronger families ties. And the same might be true of the more likely accidental implosion of the welfare state and the other safety nets--such as pensions and unions--that have supported our lives. The family as a safety net might already be on the mend to compensate for collapses on other fronts.
The same would also be true, of course, if we really get plunged into a long-term severe economic downturn. Then surely separate houses and all that would become, once again, unaffordable luxuries.
In any case, the view that the galloping individualism characteristic of capitalism progressively weakens the family--especially the extended family--through the force of the mobility required of a meritocracy based on productivity needs to be reviewed.
This trend might also be good news for those worried about who's going to take care of our rapidly growing number of old and frail Americans. Or it might not: Kids who haven't developed the moral virtue that comes with supporting oneself and one's own family might not be all that reliable in stepping up to the plate for a parent with Alzheimer's.
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