College students are staying past their welcome

istock_000004671189small11.jpgBOSTON — It’s not often that you hear someone say “after college, I want to move back in with my parents,” yet that is what most college students are faced with upon graduating.

Known as Boomerang kids, adultolescents, and B2B (Back to Bedroom), the number of adults who return home after college has steadily increased since the 1970s. The high cost of housing and the unavailability of jobs with good benefits are causing young adults to find it more and more difficult to avoid the trap of moving back home with their parents.

The numbers conclude that many adults are still living at home. According to a survey conducted by, an online job-search firm, in 2002, 60 percent of college students said they expect to live at home after graduation. The 2000 census concluded that nearly 4 million Americans aged 25 – 34 are still living in their parents’ homes or have moved back in with mom and dad.

“Whatever the reason, young adults are returning home in increasing number following graduation, the dissolution of a relationship or the loss of a job,” states Pamela Paul, in her article “The PermaParent Trap” that was featured in Psychology Today magazine in 2003. “They often live rent-free and subsidized, with no scheduled date for departure.”

“The combination of high rents and an unstable job market, increased college attendance and delayed marriage and parenting conspire to inch the age of perceived adulthood upward,” stated Paul.

Sarah D’Autilio, a junior at Suffolk University, said, “It’s nice not having to worry too much about expenses because my parents support me now, but after I graduate college if I still want to live with them, my dad told me I have to start paying rent.”

“I’m not embarrassed that I live at home, I’m young, I’m still in school, it’s normal,” said Ryan MacLeod, a 22-year-old student at North Shore Community College, who still lives at home. “It would be nice to have a place of my own, but that’s not financially possible for me right now.”

According to Kathleen Shaputis, author of the book The Crowded Nest Syndrome: Surviving the Return of Adult Children, “There no longer seems to be a stigma attached to hanging out at home into your twenties and thirties. The generation of the young twenties just doesn’t seem eager [to get out of the house]. They’d rather have creature comforts than independence. Creature comforts like good food, bought, paid for, and usually cooked by Mom or Dad.”

Macleod echoes this by saying “It’s nice living at home. I get a home cooked meal every night and I don’t have to do my own laundry. My room is in the renovated basement and my parents let me do whatever I want, so I’m not in a huge rush to move out.”

In contrast, Robert Daigle, 23, moved out of his parents’ house as soon as he got the chance. “I moved out four years ago when I was 19. I needed to get out,” he said. “All my friends were going away to college and I didn’t want to still be living at home. I have a full-time job and I have to work every day, including weekends, but it’s worth it in order to not be living with my parents.”

“Adolescents today lack the traditional itch to get married, have kids, and buy a home,” according to a recent article in Newsweek. “The average age for first marriages in the United States is now twenty-six, four years older than it was in 1970. Hence there’s less motivation to leave the parental bosom.”

“As University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg puts it, the conveyer belt that once transported adolescents into adulthood has broken down,” said Ted Landphair, in his radio broadcast “Crowded Nests” that appeared on Voice of America News on March 12, 2004. “A tight job market and tougher educational requirements have persuaded many young people to postpone their independence.”

Landphair profiled a woman in her 30s who was forced to move back home in his broadcast. “After fifteen years on her own in college and at a job in New Mexico, Tiffany Harrington moved back in with her mother in Virginia so she could search for a better job,” Landphair stated.

“I’m 32, and I’m living at home with my mom,” said Harrington on the broadcast. “I mean, right now, it’s great. I’m saving money. She doesn’t charge me rent. I’m able to take my time looking for a full-time job. You know, I live in this gorgeous townhouse – with parking! But, as far as expectations of where I thought I would be, you know, it kind of hit me yesterday.”

Dennis Gabriel, 20, is a sophomore at Suffolk University and still lives with his parents. “I live at home in Marblehead [MA] this year and I hate it,” he said. “The hour-long commute taking the T is too much. I’m moving into an apartment in Allston next year and I can’t wait. My goal is to never live at home again, but I doubt that will happen. I need to get a job first and save up in order to move out of my parents’ house forever. My parents are going to pay rent for me next year.”

A 2002 University of Chicago study conducted by Tom W. Smith concluded that despite the law implying that citizens reach adulthood when they are old enough to drink or vote, Americans believe adulthood really starts at age 26.

Martha Irvine, author of the 2003 article, “New survey says Americans put adulthood at age 26” wrote, “The study said most people don’t consider a person grown up until they finish school, get a full-time job and start raising a family.”

“In the 1950s, the most common age for brides was 18,” said Smith. “There’s a more gradual transition to adulthood than was traditionally there.”

The study surveyed nearly 1,400 American adults on perceptions of adulthood. “According to those surveyed, the average age someone should marry was 25.7, and the age for having children was 26.2,” said Irvine.

Nellie Avakov, a 19-year-old freshman at Suffolk, lives in an apartment in the North End. “I want to live in an apartment during college in order to have the ‘college experience,’ but after college I will probably move back in with my parents for a little bit to get my life in order.”

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