‘Boomerang’ kids go back to their parents

In despair at a 41-year-old son who won't leave home, Italian parents are trying to legally evict their own son. Is living with the family the future for the 'jilted generation'?

It takes a lot for a parent to throw their own child out of the house. For one Italian mother and father, though, desperate times call for desperate measures. The reason? Their son refuses to leave – and he's 41 years old.

Living at home for this long may seem a little extreme, but for millions of Italians the hotel of mum and dad is a daily reality. A stunning 59% of 18 to 34-year-olds in Italy still live with parents, and the proportion – higher among 'mamma's boys' than women – has risen in recent years.

These 'bamboccioni' are so worrying that one minister has suggested staying at home after the age of 18 should be made illegal. And Renato Brunetta knows what's he's taking about – he lived with his mother until he was thirty. 'I did not know how to make my own bed,' he says, 'my mother took care of things like that.'

So why are 30-somethings finding it so difficult to fly the nest? In Italy, families are traditionally close-knit, and it's common for children to care for elderly parents. Now, as the young struggle to get jobs and support themselves, returning home has become an acceptable necessity.

And the problem is not confined to Italy. All over the world, 30-somethings are waking up to the music posters and teddybears of their childhood bedrooms. In the USA and Europe, around one third of 18 to 34-year-olds still live at home. The proportion of British men in their twenties living with their parents has risen from 59% to 80% in the last 15 years.

According to some analysts, the situation is more to do with intergenerational economic warfare than an idyllic relationship between parents and children. While 20-somethings bear the brunt of the recession, they argue, their 'baby boomer' parents have enjoyed the fruits of prosperity during the 1960s and after. Crippled by debt, struggling to find jobs and battling sky-high house prices, 'Generation Y' has no choice but to rely on parents, whose generous pensions and comfortable homes will never be affordable for their children.

Old vs young

Arguably, parents of these 'boomerang kids' are repaying a crucial debt. They benefited from an era of free university education and affordable housing. Young people now face high costs for both. From this point of view, the middle aged aren't showing kindness by supporting their children, but giving back to a society which gave them so many opportunities.

But the average aging parent isn't personally to blame for the economic crisis. Is it really fair to make them sacrifice their retirements for the sake of overgrown babies who refuse to leave the nest? And although times are tough for today's young people, is hiding in a sort of extended childhood really the answer?

You Decide

  1. At what age should a child start living like an adult – and what does that entail?
  2. Does the older generation, having benefited from the prosperity of years before, have a responsibility to those living through harder times?

Activities

  1. Role play: imagine an encounter between a mother, who thinks her children should live on their own, and a son or daughter keen to move back home. Plan your arguments and act out the encounter between them.
  2. Research the positive and negative effects of the years of economic prosperity for the post-War 'baby boomers'. Make the case for whether these years had an overall positive, or negative, effect.

Some People Say...

“Parents should always put their children first.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why were times better when the 'baby boomers' were young?
Housing is one big reason. When the young people of the 1960s and 1970s bought homes, property was much cheaper. It was bought and sold at a rapid rate, and prices went up. Because they rose faster than wages, however, those who bought many years ago have benefitted, whilst young first-time buyers find they can't save up enough to put a deposit on a house.
Have the young benefited at all from that era of prosperity?
Yes. Many point out that, thanks to their parent's affluence, and the years of peace and technological development of the past half century, many young people are better educated, with more opportunities, than ever before.

Word Watch

Evict
Forcibly remove someone from their home or residence.
Bamboccioni
Italian for 'Big Babies' – another word for adult children who stay at home with their parents. Words for the phenomenon in other countries include 'boomerang generation', 'Peter Pan generation' or 'KIPPERs' (Kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings)
Baby Boomer
The generation born in the postwar years of 1946-64, when there was a spike in the birthrate. This generation have lived through an unprecedented era of prosperity, and were able to enjoy generous pension packages, lower house prices and free higher education.
Generation Y
It's debatable which group this applies to. Many say they are the children of the baby boomers, but dates for the birth of Generation Y-ers range from the late 1970s to the early 2000s.

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