Extended Adolescents: The New Generation of Daters

A new study sheds light on the latest type of singleton, one who still gets help from Mom and Dad.

man sitting with parents
(Image credit: Jupiterimages/Workbook Stock)

Are Mom and Dad still helping you out with rent? Living in Grandma Connie's spare room? Working as a lackey at Uncle Pete's law firm until you can find a real job? … Are you an "extended adolescent?"

If so … don't beat yourself up too much over it. A new study from The Journal of Marriage and Family shows that, even though most people think it's bad for personal development when young adults rely too long on their families for support, prolonged parental assistance can actually help children in their twenties develop autonomy and self-reliance.

As study author Teresa Swartz explains: "Parental aid serves as 'scaffolding' to help young people who are working towards financial self-sufficiency and as 'safety nets' for those who have experienced serious difficulties. In an economy that requires advanced education for good jobs, parents are more likely to aid their children when they are students." The implication is that there were more jobs open for people who didn't have bachelor's degrees — let alone a master's — when our parents and grandparents were young. "As the labor market offers fewer opportunities for stable ... well-paid work ... parents often fill in when needed," Swartz continued.

Her study found that half of the respondents received money for living expenses, or lived with their parents, or both while in their mid-twenties. That number decreased to about 10 to 15 percent by the time people reached their early thirties. Similarly, the likelihood of receiving financial help decreased 15 percent each year, and the likelihood of living with parents decreased by 18 percent each year. "These results indicate that young people do eventually become independent of parents as they grow older," Swartz noted.

And it wasn't just age that was a good predictor of independence from parents — relationship status was, too. "Forming intimate partnerships, in the forms of marriage and cohabitation, appears to signal to parents that their children have moved into adulthood and should now be on their own," as Swartz put it.

All this makes me wonder: Have you dated people who were still dependent on their parents in some way? Was that a turn-off? Do you have a personal prohibition about dating anyone who's still living with his mama? If so, maybe this study will make you reconsider your take. (Although if you don't want to deal with having to beg off the pancake breakfast with his whole fam damily every Saturday morning, I don't blame you. Maybe just insist the sleepovers occur only at your parent-free apartment.)