THEY say that marriage is for life - but children should
definitely move on. So how easy is it when the children are at
home, but no longer children?
They are called the "boomerang generation" - those who have left
home, but now find themselves back there. Figures from the Office
for National Statistics reveal that more than a quarter of those
between the ages of 20 and 34 - that is 3.35 million souls - lived
in the parental home last year.
The reasons are not hard to discern: they include unemployment,
rising house prices, and the rising cost of living. The statistics
are bleak, and so sometimes is the social life. Mandy, aged 25, has
been forced to move back to her parents' house after four years
away, and tells me that it has been difficult.
"The trouble is", she says, "I see less of my friends now. They
don't live near, and I can't go out like I used to. . . I feel like
I have to be around for supper. My mum and dad don't say that, but
it's how I feel. It's at 7 p.m., and I shouldn't be late. I'm
getting a bit tetchy with them, I know that."
In Continental Europe, this is the cultural norm. In Spain, 55
per cent of 29-year-olds live with their parents; in Italy, it is
60 per cent. So it is not a news story there, but it is one here;
because, for the UK, it is a new, unwelcome reality.
Behind these statistics are often dark feelings. As the
psychologist Dr Lynne Jordan writes: "If the reason for moving back
home is something that is potentially embarrassing, such as the
loss of a home, job, or relationship, the humiliation a person
feels is likely to be worse."
The return to a childhood bedroom is not experienced as a happy
homecoming; he or she is there because, in their eyes, they have
failed, and these four walls are a daily assault on their
There can be positive aspects. Some celebrate the money that
they are saving, and make plans: perhaps, in a couple of years, the
Help to Buy scheme can come to their aid, if they can put some
money away. And some parents may also be happy. If they have found
it a bit lonely since their offspring fled the nest, there can be
delight in their return, and a new way of knowing their
But the relationships may also be tricky: people tend to regress
on returning home, and old patterns re-establish themselves. "It
depends on how well the various developmental stages were
successfully negotiated in the growing-up years," Dr Jordan says.
"If someone has a strong sense of self as an adult, and had a good
relationship with their parents . . . they may be fine."
The poet Robert Frost said: "Home is the place where, when you
have to go there, they have to take you in." True. But that does
not mean that the homecoming is a happy one.