Back in 1985, I’m home from university for a couple of weeks and looking forward to seeing old schoolfriends again. My time off is spent in a blur of sport, reading, socialising and alcohol. These days, I’d be exhausted just thinking about it. But when my diary reaches the end of the holiday, I’m lamenting the lack of excitement, and reflecting that even though I only left my family for the first time a few short months ago, the break is already permanent. I already know that I won’t live at home again.
Fast forward to today, and no matter what your preference, your choice might not be quite so clear cut. According to the UK Office for National Statistics, the number of adult children living at home with their parents has increased by 20% since the end of the nineties – with limited job prospects, stagnating incomes, rising accommodation and living costs, student (and other) debts, and relationship issues all playing their part.
As usual when something like this comes along, we’ve been busy inventing new names for what’s happening – largely as a means of pretending that we’re more in control of it than we actually are.
The winner so far is almost certainly the idea of the ‘Boomerang generation‘ – in which children leave home only to return to live with their family a few years later – which has the advantage of being a ready-made throwback to the original ‘Baby Boomers.’ The more folksy-sounding ‘twixters‘ has been mooted (originally by Time Magazine) but has never quite caught on, despite spawning an indie TV series of the same name. Then there are the usual silly acronyms such as the Yuppie-derivative, ‘Yuckies‘ (Young Unwitting Costly Kids), and the even more outlandish ‘Kippers‘ – Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings – which was coined by the Prudential in 2003.
In Germany, young adults still living at home may find themselves labeled ‘Nesthocker,’ (young birds that stay in their nest for a long time) and are said to be living at ‘Hotel Mama’ – a similar idea to the British ‘Bank of Mum and Dad.’
In Italy, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa – considered one of the founding fathers of the European single currency – caused a stir in 2007 by referring to stay-at-home children as ‘Bamboccioni‘ – conjuring up an image of clumsy, overgrown babies unable or unwilling to make decisions for themselves.
In Japan, the language sounds even less kind. A variety of cultural and economic factors have resulted in a large constituency of what have become known as parasaito shinguru – ‘Parasite singles.’
Whichever names eventually stick, given the scale of the changes since last-minute Baby Boomers like me flew the nest, it seems unlikely this shift is going to be reversed anytime soon.