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What Happens When Adult Children Fail to Leave Home?

Updated on October 13, 2019
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Dreamworker has a lifetime of successful business, relationship, career and financial experiences she enjoys sharing with her readers.

Why is it that some adult children leave home to pursue lives for themselves while others simply linger well beyond the time when they should have departed or leave and then return permanently?

This question often makes people wonder if something is wrong with the family or the child who grows into adulthood, and in many cases they are correct.

A child who has no disabilities and is of normal intelligence should, at some point, want to move out of the family home so that he can pursue his own plans and dreams and become a true adult, yet the numbers of children who stay home well into adulthood seems to be increasing.

This issue is causing problems for the child, the family and society and is one that should be carefully examined and then addressed.

When children stay in the family home well into adulthood, many problems ensue.
When children stay in the family home well into adulthood, many problems ensue. | Source

Love Sometimes Turns into Enabing

Most parents feel the need right from the beginning to protect their children. This is a normal response, but is one that is easily abused.

Parents have a difficult time knowing when to let go, and some never do.

In many instances,they think they are protecting and helping, but in truth they are enabling. When protection becomes invasive, it no longer is a positive in a child’s life, even though it may seem to be.

Enabling Begins Early

Because this behavior starts early, it seems perfectly normal to both child and parent.

Thus, we see parents of younger children lying to teachers about absences, refusing to accept that their child might be to blame for clear instances of negative behavior and even threatening school personnel who dare to accuse their children of cheating, lying or attacking other students.

Removal From School Often Comes Next

Some go so far as to remove their child from school and begin teaching them at home. When this happens, they actually are separating their youngster from the type of social behavior models that might help him to behave in more acceptable ways.

In turn, the child takes advantage of his situation and becomes increasingly comfortable being at home because he is relieved of a great deal of social and educational stress that he would otherwise have to deal with at school.

The parent, in the meantime, requires nothing from the child in terms of being responsible for doing much of anything. Mom cooks his meals, does his dishes, washes his clothes, and cleans his room while Dad drives him wherever he needs to go and buys him whatever he wants to have.

Separation Is Minimal

Even if the child does eventually separate from the family home, he rarely goes far because he still depends on his parents for emotional and financial support. Sometimes he leaves but later returns. When this happens, he rarely leaves again.

Enabling doesn’t always go this far, but it always cripples the emotional and psychological development of the child because he never learns what he needs to know in order successfully survive in the world.

A True Story

I knew a man like this. He still lived with his father even though his mother had passed away. When the father grew old and developed Alzheimer’s disease, the son fell apart. He began crying all the time, drinking alcohol to excess and smoking. He also refused to seek counseling that would make caring for his father and accepting his situation easier.

Now the father has passed on, and the son is in his sixties. He has never married, and he lives alone in his father’s home. He has no real friends, lives on pizza and beer, is overweight and to this day has never held a job.

His parents thought they were protecting him, but they literally ruined his life.


It is common for children who don’t leave home to stay simply because they are lazy.

They don’t want to work on a job or do household chores, and by living at home, they do not have to do these things.

Parents rarely realize that they have created this situation and sometimes will almost kill themselves trying to support and care for their adult infant. He, on the other hand, could care less that they are harming themselves while trying to deal with their situation.

The parents complain loudly about what is happening, but they do nothing to fix it, but a child who is of legal age is one who can be removed from the home legally. The problem in many cases is that the parent is afraid to take action because they don’t want to ruin their relationship with their child.

The child knows this and uses it as a weapon to help him maintain his position.

In the end, the lazy child likely will face the same fate as the one who was enabled unless he is able to find a replacement (aka person who take over his care) for his parent.

Loafing is much easier than working and adult children living at home know it.
Loafing is much easier than working and adult children living at home know it. | Source


Some children remain at home through adulthood because they have an innate fear of the outside world.

They hear stories of accidents, robberies, attacks and killings and know that by remaining in the home they will be safe.

This may be the result of a traumatic experience they either viewed or had themselves, but unless they are counseled professionally, they are not likely to depart anytime soon.

Financial Problems

Another issue that doesn’t keep kids at home but forces them to return, sometimes for life, is money,

This group, known as the Boomerang Generation, may leave home to go to college or take a job only to find that they cannot afford to support themselves either because they cannot earn enough money to do so or become saddled with debt they will never be able to repay.

They return home, and a good number never leave again! It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 of these Boomerangs never plan to leave!

This begs the question of whether they will marry and bring their spouses and children into the parental home, too! It also makes one wonder whether the parents will be able to handle the financial stresses involved of welcoming them back into the family fold.

A Serious Problem

As costs of living in the U.S. increase, it is likely that this trend will continue. It will seriously affect our social and financial structures and should give all married couples cause for concern.

The cost of raising a child from birth through high school is approximately $233,000, but if a child never leaves home or boomerangs, expenses could rise significantly.

These are facts all of us should consider before deciding to have and raise children.

What Can Be Done?

Parents need to understand the importance of their roles when it comes to raising children. There is no "easy out" when it comes to this job because if they fail to discipline carefully or serve as proper role models, their consequences can be significant.

Some things they can do are

  • insist children attend school every day, and do their homework,
  • provide household chores on a regular basis,
  • praise appropriately but never fail to provide negative responses when children under perform or don't perform as necessary,
  • provide plenty of nurturing and love and
  • make sure that children have interests outside of the home so that they learn to become more independent.

One book that can provide excellent guidance for parents is called The Gift of Failure, a Pulitzer Prize winner that can help mothers and fathers understand and avoid the problems they can create by over parenting. Several of my friends have used this book and found it very helpful when it comes to avoiding the pitfalls of enabling.

Parents who are careful and observant can raise children who become responsible adults. These kids will be able to function well in the world on their own and will never have to become dependent because they will have the tools they will need that will allow them to move out of their parental home and build lives of their own.

Do you think that Boomerang Kids are cause for concern?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment
  • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    2 days ago from USA

    That's pitiful, but it's happening more and more. It's bad for all involved when it happens, and I hope this article wakes a few people up!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    3 days ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for raising this very important issue. Parents have to be intentional about raising children who are socially healthy and productive. I've heard of an adult male who still stands still for his mom to tie his shoe strings. You explored the topic very well.


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