Researchers have discovered what not to do if you’re moving back in with your parents

By Arianne Cohen

May 26, 2021

In further proof that no topic is too domestic for scholarly analysis, researchers discovered how to navigate moving back in with your parents.

“We think the findings are valuable because they provide some guidelines people can use to help ensure that ‘moving back home’ is a step forward instead of a step backward,” says Lynsey Romo, an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University, who has coauthored a paper called “A Normative Approach to Understanding How ‘Boomerang Kids’ Communicatively Negotiate Moving Back Home.” Spoiler alert: Many do not negotiate well.

The researchers studied the “dilemmas and strategies” of 31 adults, ages 22 to 31, who had previously lived elsewhere, and then returned to live with their parents. They commonly struggled with paving an adult identity while not living independently. Five guidelines emerged:

    See living at home as an opportunity. If you perceive living at home as a failure, that’s what it will feel like. Repeat after me: Living at home is an investment in my future and a chance to grow my family relationships. 

    Clearly articulate expectations. How much is rent? When and how will it be paid? Is there a curfew? Are overnight guests okay? Pets? Sudden overnight disappearances?

    Contribute to the household. Chores, maintenance, and rent are baseline. The study found that relations improved when adult children communicated specific ways that they could benefit the household.

    State timelines. How long will this tenancy last? Why? Is the stay length connected to a job, education, or financial milestones? What’s the worst-case scenario?

    Act like an adult. This is not the moment to revert to teen patterns and behaviors.

The study launched pre-pandemic. “The trend is increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic woes,” says Romo. The study appears in a journal called Emerging Adulthood.