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In difficult times, more adult children moving back home

College student returns to Cary after bout with illness

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CARY – Sick with mono and without the energy to keep his job, Conor Dalton knew he had one option – call home.

At the time, the now-25-year-old was living in Orem, Utah, taking classes at Utah Valley University while working to pay the bills. He needed to regroup. Dalton called his parents and in August 2011 moved back home with them and his three younger siblings.

“Sometimes, we’re so on top of each other that it’s easy to clash,” said Dalton, who is studying English at McHenry County College. “But we still work it out.”

Dalton’s living arrangement has become commonplace among people his age, thanks in large part to a down economy. Nearly 40 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 either live with their parents now or moved back in for a time in recent years, according to a Pew Research survey.

Nearly 70 percent of those young adults say they are or were satisfied with their living arrangement back at home, according to the study.

But the situation raises challenges both for parents and their adult children, said Wendy Gwaltney, a parent specialist at Spring Grove Wellness. “It really does change the dynamic,” she said. “You have a young adult and now they go back under care. That’s a big transition for everyone, and it can cause some stress.”

Gwaltney said it’s easy for a family to fall into the same patterns as when the now-adult child was a teenager. She recommends redefining the living arrangement from the start, communicating what’s expected of the young adult as a contributing member of the household.

That could mean paying rent or other requirements, mindful that as an adult child, the rules may not be the same as they were in the teenage years.

While young adults can’t expect to throw parties until 2 a.m. under their new roof, it’s reasonable to expect a greater level of social freedom than the last time they lived at home, Gwaltney said.

Dalton isn’t paying rent to his parents, but said he helps around the house. And he’s been given a level of freedom by his mom and dad.

Trish Dalton, his mother, said there have been challenges having Conor back at home, but it largely has been a positive experience.

She views the fact that more and more families are becoming multigenerational as a positive.

“In some ways, it’s been a blessing to have this happen,” Trish Dalton. “I think it’s forced some families to become closer. They’ve had to rely on each other more than they would have.”

Roberta Coles, a professor of sociology at Marquette University, said the number of multigenerational households declined steadily until the 1990s, but has risen as of late.

She said the economy is eroding the stigma of young adults moving back in with their parents.

“Whether this will last long-term once the economy is in recovery, it’s hard to say,” Coles said.

Conor Dalton said he hasn’t figured out what’s next when he finishes up his degree at MCC. But he’s thankful he had his family to fall back on.

“They don’t get it from me a lot, but I really do enjoy being around them,” he said. “I do appreciate them.”

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