There are many who argue that moving back home with your parents after college or after entering the real world is somehow synonymous with failure. Young adults who move back home are often characterized as people who have failed to grow up, given names like "kidult" and "adultolescents", all which stress the idea that these are people who have not yet exited childhood. In talking about this group, there is often an emphasis on the fact that people who move back home obviously do so to avoid the real world, to delay adult responsibility, to receive hand-outs and free services from mom and dad, and generally speaking, to act like moving home is a permanent grade school summer vacation of endless laziness and self-indulgence.
However, this isn't necessarily true. Many kids are moving back home because it seems like the most financially responsible thing to do. Considering that entry level wages have not kept up with the pace of inflation, most 20-somethings are less able to be financially independent than their parents were 30 years ago, even when they are in the same fields or positions. Beyond that, young adult employment rate is twice as high as that of the general employment rate, and at a time when many are being laid off, companies are often hiring older, more experienced employees in positions where they once would have hired those fresh from college, or those who might have been retiring have delayed doing so because they've lost a large percentage of their retirement funds in the stock market.
Because the number of people who have college degrees have gone up over the years, it means that young people often have to get more education to perform the same jobs—leaving 20-somethings entering the work force later than previous generations and with more debt. Many see living with their parents as a way to reduce their own spending, while paying down debt and saving for their future. Other things that have been regularly cited as reasons for young people to delay striking out on their own: they are remaining unmarried and childless longer, they often delay entering the workforce to volunteer or to travel, and generally speaking are taking on the traditional responsibilities of adulthood later.
Knowing all of that, why is there still the stigma that moving back home with your parents is a sure sign of failure to grow up?
Well, because for the last 100 years or so, moving out has been the moment that has defined both adult independence and adult success. While perhaps in the earlier half of the century unmarried women might remain in their parents' home after receiving an education, overwhelmingly the marker of adulthood has been getting a job and living on your own. However, Stephanie Coontz, an academic who specializes in history and family studies, says that this has not always been the case. In the 19th century, it was not as uncommon to see adults living with their parents as it is today. In fact, it wasn't until there was a cultural shift in the 1950s regarding what constitutes a happy marriage and a happy family that people began to discourage adult children from living with their parents. Looking at living with your parents and notions of adulthood and independence in this light, it begins to become clear that what constitutes adulthood and independence are more social constructs than anything. But...does that still mean you've failed to "grow up" by our cultural standards? Have you failed in our society?
I don't think so. More and more adult children are moving back home, and not so they can spend all day watching porn in their basement-cum-living-quarters while Mom does their laundry and brings them PBJ sandwiches all day long. Most these days have jobs, have financial obligations they are meeting, and are contributing financially and/or in terms of responsibilities in their parents' home. Some parents even say it's given them a financial break. Also, many families cite that it has fostered closer inter-generational relationships and that they feel like they appreciate and respect one another more for the experience. That's not always the case, obviously, but...
I'd say that rather than writing off every kid who moves back home as just another mooching slacker, we should argue that moving back home could actually be a responsible thing to do and the sign not of failure, but rather of a smart transition into adulthood. And just like there was a shift in the 50s of what constituted adulthood and independence (and also when adulthood and independence was socially conferred upon a person), then it's entirely possible we're going through a similar cultural shift now. In 10 years, living with your mom and dad could be completely normal. As it stands now, I would say that before we make any arguments about whether young people are actually "failing to grow up" simply because they're going back to their parents' home, maybe we should evaluate the individual circumstances and see how the concept of adulthood and independence are changing, perhaps not even necessarily for the worse.