UBC researcher to study young adults who live with their parents

Young adults in Canada are less likely to own a home and more likely to live with their parents than they were a decade ago, according to recently released census data.

Umay Kader

Young adults in Canada are less likely to own a home and more likely to live with their parents than they were a decade ago, according to recently released census data.

But statistics only tell one part of the story.

Umay Kader (she/her), a PhD candidate in sociology at UBC, wants to understand the other part. For her PhD research, she is setting out to interview up to 50 people aged 25 to 34 who live with their parents in Metro Vancouver, to learn how they navigate these living arrangements.

We spoke with Kader about the project.

What made you want to study adults who live with their parents?

Around the time I started my PhD program, I started noticing a lot of news and social media posts asking, “These millennials who live with their parents so long—when are they going to move out?” There was even a story in the U.S. about a son who refused to move out of his parents’ place, and his parents sued him. I’ve seen similar news items in Canada, with parents worrying that their kids won’t move out anytime soon. I began to wonder how cultural, social, and parental expectations shape people’s decisions and experiences of living together with their parents. How do people who are actually in the middle of this phenomenon feel and experience it?

Is all the media coverage justified, given statistical trends?

This has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the 1990s. Now, according to Stats Canada’s 2021 census, 35.1 per cent of young adults between 20 and 34 are living with at least one of their parents. In the U.S., almost 50 per cent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 were living with their parents during the pandemic, which was a record high number. So, it has been an increasing phenomenon.

Interestingly, men are living with their parents longer than women do. This is a statistic valid in Canada, the U.S. and other western countries as well.

Why are the numbers rising?

Housing crises, the labour market—especially the uncertain and precarious labour market—unemployment and underemployment are all factors that influence people’s decision to stay at home or return back to their parents’ place.

So what’s left to uncover?

We know less about what the experience of living together with parents actually looks like. How do these people navigate this common living space with their parents? How do they make household decisions together—about household chores, division of labour, who does what and when? What kind of conflicts do they have? How do they resolve those conflicts?

And how do they navigate everyday practices like food preferences? What happens when one is vegan or vegetarian? Who cooks for the person who has those preferences?

We don’t know what happens when they have guests over. Do they let their parents know in advance? Do they invite friends, significant others, sexual or romantic partners? We don’t really know much yet about how they navigate that family space together.

How do you plan to find out?

I will be conducting in-person or Zoom interviews with volunteers who are living together with at least one of their parents in Metro Vancouver. Participants will receive an honorarium to thank them for their participation in this project.

What impact do you hope this research will have?

I hope it will inform policy makers on the challenges and opportunities people in this age range have when they live with their parents. Family services, community and social groups, non-governmental and civil society organizations can become better informed about the ways they can help these people and their parents navigate this situation.

How can young adults living with parents become participants in your study?

They can reach out to me via email at umay.kader@ubc.ca.

Interview language(s): English