Catching the boomerang: how private renting can prevent a parental problem
The private rental sector is already well-known for providing an alternative source of residential accommodation to owner-occupancy, and it has the potential to play a key role in improving family relations.
For young people not yet able to find the money for a mortgage deposit, renting is the alternative to staying in the family home. The latter may work out cheaper, but it can come with a range of frustrations; there is a sense of lost or delayed independence for the children - particularly irritating for those who have returned from the freedoms of university in another town or city. For parents, it delays the time when they can enjoy more space and leisure without having the kids under their feet.
Boomerangs bring baby boomers bother
These negatives can be made a lot worse by the phenomenon of 'boomerang' kids. These are adult children who, having once moved out, end up returning in due course. That can mean parents who have got used to having an empty nest face a change in their lifestyles they were unprepared for.
While there are those who come back after many years to care for an elderly parent, the 'boomerang' phenomenon is something different; this is where those who fled the nest feel forced to come back because they have fallen on hard times and have nowhere else to go. This might be the result of losing a job, a failed marriage or similar calamity, but the impact on all concerned can be very negative.
This has been revealed in a study by the London School of Economics. It noted that across the western world, co-generational family living declined in the second half of the 20th century, but has started to increase again. The study of 17 countries - which, curiously, excluded Britain - found that this had significant negative effects on the health and psychological wellbeing of parents aged between 50 and 75.
Published in Science Direct, the survey showed these parents tended to be more likely than their peers with empty nests to experience a range of negative effects such as stress, resentment, depression and marital problems.
Study author Dr Marco Tosi said: "When children leave the parental home, marital relationships improve and parents find a new equilibrium.
"They enjoy this stage in life, finding new hobbies and activities. When adult children move back, it is a violation of that equilibrium."
A north European problem
The absence of Britain from the study does not mean the effects here can only be guessed at. The survey found that in southern European, mainly Catholic countries, where there is more intergenerational living and less individualism, the negative effects were not as pronounced as in more individualistic, Protestant, northern European countries. The UK fits the latter cultural category.
A rental solution '
As the cause of the boomerang phenomenon is often a personal catastrophe for an adult child, it is not unlikely that they will take some time to get back on their feet personally and financially. Nonetheless, landlords and agents may find this is a significant segment of the market they can pitch themselves at, by offering affordable accommodation that offers boomerang children a chance to make their return to the parental home a brief one.
After all, by providing people aged over 25 - and often much older - with a residential alternative to living like they did when they were teenagers, landlords can offer something that will be beneficial to all. It offers older children a chance to regain their dignity and not feel like they have 'failed' at adult life. It also gives parents their empty nest back.