The researchers found that only one-third of US adults did not rely on their parents for some form of financial support between their late teens and early 40s. Overall, the NC State team says their work details and pays attention to the complex relationships between parents, their adult children, and money issues, reports BGNES.
While popular culture suggests to young people that they should establish their independence as quickly as possible, in reality this rarely turns out to be the case. This work shows that parents and adult children rely on each other for financial assistance or a place to live well into the children’s mature years.
“This situation really challenges the notion that complete independence is a necessary marker of adulthood,” Anna Manzoni, study co-author and associate professor of sociology at NC State, said in a university news release. “Instead, we see a pattern of interdependence that changes over time and appears to be influenced by race and education.”
To investigate this topic, the study authors analyzed data on 14,675 US adults who participated in the National Health Survey of Adolescents and Adults. For the purposes of this project, the researchers chose to focus specifically on data collected from study participants between the ages of 18 and 43.
At a more detailed level, the research team actively looked for different ways in which these adults exchanged financial and housing support with their parents over time, in addition to a host of other social and demographic factors (gender, race/ethnicity, parental educational attainment ).
“We found that there is no single path that most people take when it comes to independence from their parents,” added Prof. Manzoni. “Instead, people tend to fall into one of six different categories.”
The study authors divided their findings into categories called “pathways of intergenerational support”:
Complete independence (33.44% of respondents): Children become financially and residentially independent in their late teens or early 20s and maintain that independence.
Independence with transitional support (20.14 %): Similar to the “full independence” group, but receiving some financial support from their parents in their 20s or early 30s.
Gradual independence (15.07 %): Refers to children who lived at home until the age of 20 and received significant financial support, with this support gradually decreasing over time.
From high to low support (14.63 %): Children who lived at home until the age of 20 and received significant financial support, but as they got older, it decreased rapidly.
Extended interdependence (10.22 %): Children who lived at home for an extended period of time and who not only received financial support from parents, but also provided financial support to parents.
Boomerang (6.51%): Refers to children who moved out of home in their late teens or early 20s, returned to their parents in their mid-20s to early 1930s and then moved out again in the 1930s or early 1940s.
“We also found that these pathways are not evenly distributed in the population,” explains Prof. Manzoni. “For example, complete independence is least likely among black families and most likely among white families, while extended interdependence is least likely among white families and most likely among Hispanic families.”
“Educational qualification also appears to be a significant factor. For example, people whose parents have completed less than a high school education are much more likely to face the path of extended interdependence, while people whose parents have completed a university or professional degree, are significantly more likely to face the path of full independence.”
“Ultimately, the work shows the extent to which access to resources and structural constraints, such as access to education, influence which pathways to independence people have access to,” Manzoni adds. “It also makes it clear that we need to reassess the way we think about independence and maturity, given that only a third of the survey participants were able to take the path to full independence that is often portrayed as the norm “.
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