Parents and their grown children stay in contact more as a result of marital expectations, educational opportunities, and technology, according to the British Psychological Society’s author Karen Fingerman, a psychology researcher from the University of Texas. Her research team’s findings, published in The Psychologist, reveals how parent-child bonds have evolved and strengthened since the 1960s.

"Increased contact between generations reflects changes in the nature of young adulthood,” Fingerman wrote in the article. “In the 21st century, young adults spend more time in education, experience greater challenges finding jobs, and delay marriage longer (if they marry at all) than was the case 30 or 40 years ago."

Today, one-third of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 live with their parents. Fingerman argues it is because the younger generation’s focus has increasingly shifted away from marriage and forming a family, and more toward developing careers and education attainment. This leads to children living at home longer, which leads them to forge strong bonds with their parents. Parents need to learn how to develop a mature respect for their adult child’s space as they grow up in limbo within their home. The goal is not to keep children at home the longest or to over-nurture them, but instead to strike a balance between a healthy adult relationship without smothering the child.  

"Bonds between young adults and parents appear to be thriving,” Fingerman wrote. “Recent trends and declines in marriage suggest intergenerational ties will continue to intensify. Thus, increasingly, relationships with parents and children are the most important enduring ties in individuals’ lives.”

In the past, parents operated on “distinct patterns” that were authoritative, which may be how they wedged the relationship between themselves and their child. Now that parents and children are living together for longer periods of time, their relationships are forged on even playing fields, in which mutual respect is developed and residual even after they move out. Fingerman supported her claims with a 2012 study that found if two young adults were unemployed, and one receives parental support and the other does not, the one that receives the support is more likely to have improved wellbeing.

Highly functional parent-child ties are also improving because of technologies like email, texting, and social media platforms, which help them connect to each other’s worlds. However, technology only supplements communication just over a third of the time, which means it’s not the sole reason for the improvement of their bonds over time. But Fingerman points out, as values between parents and adult children increasingly align, their support systems will continue to strengthen and flourish individually.  

Source: Fingerman K. Frequent contact between parents and adult children is beneficial to both. The Psychologist. 2016.