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Should you still live with your parents in your 20s?

Atlanta Woolley has lived in the same Melbourne home for her entire life. It’s close to the train station, her friends and work. The 21-year-old student still gets to go on family holidays and she can save more of her part-time income than her renting counterparts can. She’s also been able to complete an unpaid internship – something she couldn’t have done if she was living out of home.

On the surface she looks like many other reasonably carefree university students – staying at home for as long as she can because … well … she can. But on top of study, internships and part-time work, Atlanta is also developing valuable skills she can take into adulthood, caring for her 14-year-old sibling from Monday to Wednesday while her Mum is working in Sydney. ‘We laugh at the mum duties that I have, like needing to go to Year 9 information evening or buying groceries,’ she says.

The case for staying home

In a recent Herald Sun article, life coach Michele Jones suggested that parents should encourage their children to move out by the time they’re 20. But Atlanta argues that for students acquiring debt and working unpaid hours to get into their chosen field, it’s impossible to rent. She believes that the adults offering advice don’t understand how difficult it is for her generation. ‘Baby boomers have all the money and property investments, but they’re paying us nothing to do intern work,’ she says, and adds that’s why she gets frustrated when people ask her when she’s moving out.

According to Dr Gery Karantzas, Director of Deakin University’s Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory, ‘There’s a middle ground in terms of the proposal that children should move out by 20. It has a lot to do with what goes on in the family home,’ he says. ‘If young people are fostered to develop a sense of responsibility and take the perspective of others in terms of what’s fair and reasonable, then having young people stay at home for longer is ok,’ Dr Karantzas suggests.

'If young people are fostered to develop a sense of responsibility and take the perspective of others in terms of what’s fair and reasonable, then having young people stay at home for longer is ok'

Dr Gery Karantzas,
School of Psychology, Deakin University

Moving on out

Not all university students can stay at home until they feel completely ready to spread their wings. Deakin University Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws student Tom Rochford, 22, has to be very careful with his money in order to live in a share house and complete his degree. Because he’s originally from Bendigo, he had no choice but to move to the city to study. Each summer he works full-time on a farm to save a lump sum and manages that along with his Youth Allowance over the course of the year. He gets by, but he isn’t in a position to get ahead financially. ‘Graduation is two years away. I’ll start thinking about it then,’ he says.

Regardless of whether a young person stays at home or moves out, Dr Karantzas says parents should still be actively engaged in parenting in the transition to young adulthood, from ages 18 to 25 – even if that’s as little as providing the guidance to help students develop a savings plan or finance management skills. He says there are plenty of young people living in share houses and eschewing responsibility. By contrast, those at home could be learning important lessons in running a household if their parents take their transition into adulthood seriously. ‘At some point they’re going to be contributing to a family of their own. It’s important to set up those kinds of accountabilities,’ he concludes.

Want to get better at understanding family relationships? Consider studying one of Deakin University’s psychology courses.

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Dr Gery Karantzas
Dr Gery Karantzas

Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Deakin University
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