USA Today ran a guest column last week about the trend of adult children moving back home. Authors John L. Graham and Sharon Graham Niederhaus write in their column "Back to the Nest" that it's actually a good thing for America. Why? Graham and Niederhaus believe this trend is enriching the family experience and will help meet the financial challenges that baby boomers and their families are experiencing. Our culture is shifting, they write, making way for more than one generation to live together.
I took a look at the most recent Census Bureau statistics on this subject. In 2001, the Census Bureau released data on its first study on multigenerational housing and found that in 2000 there were 3.9 million multigenerational households, or those with three or more generations of parents and children living together. These households accounted for only about 4 percent of all households in the United States.
Nevertheless, I think the idea of bringing families back together under the same roof generally is a good concept.
Our "me-centered" culture says we don't need family, we only need ourselves. We've grown accustomed to getting out on our own and abandoning the past for the new and unconquered. I do think children need to experience life and to learn to be responsible adults. But independence shouldn't be synonymous with near abandonment of one's family.
Clearly, multigenerational households aren't for everyone, but what a beautiful concept to embrace our families (faults and all) and to be intentional in growing through our life experiences together. Graham and Niederhaus say our culture is partly responsible for stunting the growth of multigenerational households. Our culture says the adult child who won't move out simply isn't interested in growing up, they write. To some degree, that notion is probably true...or at least is in danger of becoming true.
So, that's why for multigenerational households to succeed, they must have something more than the OK from doting parents. Multigenerational families need clear expectations...such as adult children contributing financially to the household. Otherwise, we will end up with families that are no longer too independent, but too dependent...and worse yet, adult children who really will never grow up.