Outlining a future research agenda for studies of young adults’ transitions to residential independence ** Draft paper – Not for citation – **

Publication type

Conference Paper


New Agendas on Youth and Young Adulthood: Youth Studies Conference, 2013


Publication date

April 8, 2013


For many young adults leaving home is becoming more problematic and this transition is increasingly ‘reversed’. The British media have portrayed a new generation of young adults “boomeranging” to the parental home. It is clear that a relatively straightforward trend – increased co-residence in the parental home – is being driven by a number of distinct forces which vary according to class, gender and ethnicity. This paper argues that a new research agenda is required to understand how young adults’ housing careers have responded to recent changes in the demographic, socio-economic and policy context and how this differs by gender and ethnicity. The feminisation of higher education has meant that women’s transitions to residential independence have become more like those of young men. Increasing tuition fees mean that students have to reassess their residential options for Higher Education and the rapid increases in graduate unemployment and underemployment have increased the dependence of men and women from more advantaged backgrounds upon their parents. At the same time, for those in more precarious work positions, welfare retrenchment, increasing private housing costs and the concentration of the social housing sector on those most in priority need mean that many (often single) young adults are not able to leave home. The UK is somewhat unique in Europe in the extent to which many young men are not co-resident with their children. Future research needs to examine how non-resident fathers are at a particular disadvantage in terms of accessing welfare benefits or social housing and how this impacts on their ability to share parenting. New research should examine whether these trends have intensified following the introduction in 2012 of an extension of the restrictions in housing benefit to a “shared accommodation rate” for those aged under 35 and reductions in housing allowances associated with Welfare Reform. Finally, the demand e.g. from the Prime Minister David Cameron, that families should take responsibility for young adults who are not economically independent ignores the modern reality of the “parental home”. New research is required to understand how parents who are often part of the so-called “sandwich generation” balance their responsibilities towards their adult children with the care or financial support for an older generation. Furthermore, increasingly the parental home is a lone parent or a blended family where parents have to balance the support of both natural and step children, some of whom will be co-resident and some of whom will not be.



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