As adolescents transition into adulthood, young people experience rapid changes, acquire autonomy, and build a sense of self. Many teens are elated to live on their own and to  gain independence. However, a growing number of young adults are choosing to live at home. The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2015, 24 million Americans between the ages of 18-34 still lived with their parents which is an 8% increase from 2005.  

24 million Americans between the ages of 18-34 still lived with their parents which is an 8% increase from 2005.

This phenomenon is often referred to as, failure to launch syndrome. While this is not a true diagnosis, psychologists use this terminology to describe young adults inability to transition from adolescence into young  adulthood. The underlying causes can be different for individuals but anxiety and other mental health struggles are frequent factors that trigger dependence and annikola-jovanovic-631527-unsplash overreliance on their parents.

The stigma that comes with young adults struggling to become independent can cause distress for  parents as they feel shame and guilt, wondering where they went wrong. Young adults can be perceived as lazy or over pampered when, in fact, they are experiencing an underlying issue that causes them to feel overwhelmed by the demands of adulthood.   

The Importance Of Setting Boundaries

As mentioned earlier, many factors can be attributed to a young adult’s resistance to moving out of their parent’s home. One common cause Equinox Counseling & Wellness Center encounters is when parents have not set healthy boundaries with their child due to accommodation.

It is natural for parents to want to shelter and protect their children.

Accommodation in parenting is when parents change their behaviors to reduce stress for their child. This is common in households where an adolescent has anxiety or another mental disorder. It is natural for parents to want to shelter and protect their children but when they over accommodate, it can lead to an enmeshed relationship where the parent controlled and potentially, manipulated by their child.

Enmeshment is when personal boundaries are unclear and become blurred. A parent can put their young adult’s needs before theirs and become immersed in their child’s emotions. When a parent has a young child, it is matt-quinn-32108-unsplashnormal to put their needs first but as a child becomes more self-sufficient, these boundaries need to shift so the child can become autonomous.

While it is not a parent’s intention to slow down the development of their child’s individual sense of identity or self-esteem, it is a debilitating consequence when parents do not set proper boundaries. Young adults of enmeshed families may avoid taking healthy risks, such as, moving out or transitioning into adulthood.

When parents have healthy boundaries with their young adult, family members are able to not get swept away in each other’s emotions. In these relationships, parents can show empathy toward their child’s anxious emotions while staying in control of their own emotions. Showing empathy and nurturing concern rather than joining in a young adult’s anxious, emotional state grants them their own emotional space and is a step toward independence.

Interrupting Patterns So Young Adults Can Thrive

Enmeshed families typically have a generational pattern of fluid boundaries and while previous generations may not have struggled with failure to launch youth, it is important for family members to acknowledge the issue. Parents must also know the dangers of accommodation and that letting their child fail rather than running to their rescue is healthy.

Recognizing these patterns can be difficult for parents and young adults toryan-moreno-99460-unsplash see, so committing to a program that incorporates family therapy is key to long-term success. Equinox Counseling & Wellness Center is devoted to working with the entire family to interrupt negative patterns and provide healthy solutions so the entire family can begin to heal.

Equinox’s young adult program helps emerging youth gain autonomy and function far beyond their parent’s expectations. Our structured program provides a safe and healing environment for teens and young adults to gain confidence and find their sense of self. Parents can see their child take steps toward a successful and fulfilled life and gain their own personal freedom.  


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