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The reasons most mentioned by parents for why their millennial children were living at home were that their kids were in continuing education (university/training courses), or saving for their own place, “to get ahead” or to travel.

What a survey of parents and their millennial children found

Talkin’ about my generation.

Bauer Insights IQ’s September 2019 “Generation Game” research was conducted with parents of millennials and, in a separate survey, with millennials themselves. More than 600 people responded, the majority from the parents’ survey.

It showed 21% of parents had one or more millennial children currently living at home, with another 12% saying one could return “any time”. (Our “millennials” were defined as those born between January 1980 and December 1996, now aged 18-39.)

Asked if they assisted their millennial children financially, 73% of parents said yes, with a further 19% saying they have done so in the past. Seventy per cent of parents said it was much easier for them to buy a house than it is for their kids; 76% of the millennials agreed.

Of those parents helping their kids out financially, 23% have done so by contributing to a house deposit. But topping the list for financial assistance were groceries, clothes, vehicle repairs, travel and holidays.

The reasons most mentioned by parents for why their millennial children were living at home were that their kids were in continuing education (university/training courses), or saving for their own place, “to get ahead” or to travel. “Affordability and the cost of living” cropped up often, with “Auckland costs” identified in particular; relationship break-ups came in third after study and finances. And millennials’ “mental health/health” problems were cited by a small but significant number of parents as to why their adult children were still at home.

“It was unaffordable for her to live in her own place, studying at [an] institute of technology… there was no money to flat… anxiety stemming from the Canterbury earthquakes had a huge impact on her ability to be in her own place and earn enough money.”

“We have a big house; it was cheaper [for them] to pay rent at home and to save money… so we could all travel overseas.”

“No job, left boyfriend and couldn’t afford to live... was depressed.”

Two-thirds of parents said the living arrangement totally or mostly suited them. Another 28% thought it was “okay most of the time”. A third of millennials living at home paid rent and 35% contributed to the running of the household, by doing chores or buying groceries, for instance. Their financial contributions were mostly more fluid than fixed, however.

“We’ve argued about this. I think $200 a week is realistic, their father thinks $175 is fair, and they think $150 is too much – ‘compared to what others pay’…”

Related article: Why middle-class millennials aren’t leaving home

We asked parents what they considered to be the pluses and minuses of sharing the family home with their millennial children. They listed lots of benefits, topped by “company”, but the pluses including sharing the chores and costs, house- and pet-sitting, security, help with technology and good old “fun”.

On the downside, some parents cited the lack of privacy, the additional costs, the mess, noise and “attitude”.

“They help with the chores and keep us young. It’s great to be able to share in their lives and see them develop in their work and their maturity. Chances are they will be looking after the home when we go away so it’s not left empty.”

“He’s a great help when things go wrong with our technology – computers and phones. We have great conversations and enjoy his company. The board he pays is a help with household finances.”

“I need them to live their lives. There’s a whole world out there that doesn’t revolve around the family unit. One in particular treats [the home] as a bit of a hotel. I don’t think either of them really wants to be at home still but it’s what works for them right now.”

“Extra adult, extra mouth to feed, channel-surfing, making a mess and not cleaning up, not paying board regularly.”

The millennials also enjoyed the “company” and cost-sharing of living in the family home. On the downside, the lack of privacy and parental interference bugged them.

“Meals cooked for you. Free accommodation. No utilities bills. [Enjoy the] company of parents, siblings and pets. Warm house, unlike cold rental properties. In a nice suburb.”

“Getting to hang out with my dad. He shared more stories about his life than he did when I was younger... it helped our relationship a lot.”

“You do revert back to being a child...”

“[My mum] freaks out if I don’t come home. I’m 25. She makes me inform her of my dinner plans by 4pm... (I’m really not a planner). I can’t have friends over drinking... It is embarrassing to admit to a potential love interest that you live at home. My mum becomes a little too invested in my love and work life as she’s around all the time and is unable to remain objective.”

Forty-three per cent of the millennials said their parents will expect them (the millennials) to look after them when they get old. Only 18% of parents agreed with this.

“I will always support my mother as my father has passed and my brother has a severe mental illness. It is my duty to care for her just like she has taken care of me. Plus I love her to pieces... I think if my dad was alive, I would put them in a home, though; Dad was annoying.”

Asked if they think adolescence is prolonged these days, 41% of parents said yes; 51% of millennials agreed. Many parents commented that their generation left home earlier and were given adult responsibilities at a younger age (almost all the parents who responded to the survey had left home and become independent in their teens or early 20s). They blamed themselves, too, for cossetting their kids – and a few argued that social media places tremendous pressure on young people, leading to insecurity “when in fact they’re doing fine”.

“Adolescents take longer to mature because most of them are doing tertiary study and finding what they want to do work-wise. So they’re not expected to shoulder the responsibilities of previous generations at the same age.”

“A lot of millennials are ‘bubble-wrapped’… and remain in a time-warp of mum and dad pandering to them.”

“Kids seem to be less resilient though they’re very tech-savvy.”

Four in 10 parents think their millennial children will leave home in the next 12 months. Another 17% expect their child to depart in the next couple of years or so. Just over a quarter (27%) believe their child will leave home only as a result of a major event.

The remaining 8% don’t think they will ever leave.

This research is part of the feature Why middle-class millennials aren’t leaving home, first published in the November 2019 issue of North & South. Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email for more great stories.