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Youth Take Longer to Leave Their Parents

Young Russians are in no hurry to start living on their own. The age of moving out from the parental home has increased from 18-20 for previous generations to 23-25 for today's youth. Instead, young people are spending more time in search of themselves and taking longer to get an education and choose a partner, according to a study by Ekaterina Mitrofanova, Junior Research Fellow at the HSE Institute of Demography, and Alina Dolgova, student at the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences.

Leaving the parental home usually precedes major demographic milestones, such as getting married (or moving in with a partner) and having children. Typically, this move requires finding a home of one's own and having a certain degree of socioeconomic independence based on education, employment and financial self-sufficiency. At least, this was the 20th century stereotype, but it does not necessarily hold true today.

Today, individual lives tend to be more diverse and less linear than before, while different life stages, such as going to school, starting a family, getting a job, and retirement often follow new sequences (see article Today's Russians Live Less Predictable Lives) and are based on more careful and rational planning guided by individual preferences rather than social norms. Thus, the timing of certain life events may vary.

A typical young Russian today matures rather slowly. They tend to be more pragmatic, spend more time on education and self-exploration and put off getting married and having children (see article Young People Seek Self-fulfillment). As to cohabitation, young people are ready to move in together much earlier than their predecessors and experience an earlier sexual debut. Reflecting a new perspective on family values, marital behavior tends to be more rational, with young people choosing life partners by trial and error. And since 'adult children' are in no hurry to make lifelong decisions, they postpone moving out from the parental home.

In their article The start of an independent life by Russians: the intergenerational aspect published in Demoscope Weekly, Mitrofanova and Dolgova examine in retrospect the behavioural changes in terms of leaving the parental home observed in Russia over generations, and particularly the age of separation from one's family of origin. Their analysis is based on the findings from three waves (2004, 2007 and 2011) of the study 'Parents and Children, Men and Women in Family and Society'. Their sample of 4,687 respondents included those born between 1930 and 1986 who first left their parental family between the ages of 15 and 30.

Sometimes They Come Back

Most respondents (97%) have had some experience of living separately from their parents, and 12% of those were living with their parents again at the time of the survey. i.e. their independence turned out to be partially reversible for whatever reason, such as breaking up with a partner, needing to save money, having no place of their own, etc.

Comparing the number of respondents living on their own in different generations, one can see that the proportion of respondents born in the 1980s who had never lived separately from their parents at the time of the survey was quite high at 20%. Perhaps, at the time of the survey some of them were just too young to live on their own; anyway, their demographic behavior is different from that of their parents who used to 'leave the nest' at an earlier age.

Older Generations Became Independent Earlier

According to the authors, the highest proportion of respondents who left their parents at 18 was found in the generation born between 1950 and 1959, while subsequent generations showed an increasing proportion of those who continued to live with their parents up to the age of 25.

Curiously, the 1970s generation demonstrated a tendency to leave the parental home at an earlier age, while in the 1980s generation, by contrast, the average age of starting an independent life increased again and reached 20.5, which is almost the same as in the 1930s generation, whose young years fell in the post-war period when families often stayed together to increase their chances of survival.

Gender-wise, women in all observed generations tend to leave the parental home about one year earlier than men.

Some People Regret Growing up Too Fast

In addition, respondents were asked whether they felt they had left their parents' home at the right time or perhaps too early; their responses reflect a shift in the perception of maturity across generations. The proportion of men and women who believe they started living independently at the right time drops from 77% in the 1930s generation to 70% in the 1980s generation, suggesting that more recent generations are not so sure whether early independence is a good thing.

Indeed, almost a third of the respondents born between 1980 and 1986 regretted starting an independent life a bit too early.

"On the one hand, we can assume that 70% of the younger respondents had made a well thought out decision since they are sure they started off on their own at the right time for them; however, a fairly large and growing proportion had apparently taken the decision lightly and later regretted it," note the researchers.

Stereotypes of Adulthood Need Revision

The authors examined the respondents' attitudes towards social stereotypes as to when one should start living independently.

The proportion of those who felt that 18 was the right age for starting off on one's own was high in respondents born before 1969, but declined from 44% to 42% in subsequent generations, as more people questioned whether the legal coming of age was indeed a good age for starting an independent life.

The vast majority (90%) of respondents believe that 23 to 25 is the best age for the transition to adult life, since most young people at 25 would already have an education, a job, access to socioeconomic resources and a sense of self-sufficiency.

In fact, the actual age of leaving the parental home does not confirm the stereotype that young people should leave their parents' home as they legally come of age. While many respondents still feel that starting an independent life at 18 or 20 is normal, they also agree that becoming independent at 23 to 25 is fine. According to the researchers, "just 60% of those who left their parents at the age of 18 to 20 believe that it was the right time for them to do so."

Young People in No Rush to Leave Parents

The authors used event history analysis to assess the chances of leaving the parental home at different ages, using the moment one starts living separately as the dependent variable. They used the data from the 2011 (third) wave of the 'Parents and Children, Men and Women in Family and Society' survey for their model as it includes a wealth of data on various demographic events. For women, the likelihood of leaving parents before 30 is 1.2 higher than for men, but later on, the chances are equal for both genders.

Event history analysis has confirmed the retrospective observation that the chances of leaving one’s parents early were lower for people born in the 1930s (due to the historical context, as explained above). The retrospective findings were also confirmed for the 1950s and 1970s generations – these cohorts had the maximum probability of starting independent lives before the age of 20. But in subsequent generations, the chances of starting off on one's own before 20 consistently decreased, reaching the lowest in the 1980s generation, followed by a consistent increase after the age of 24.

Thus, recent generations tend to leave their parents at the later age of 23 to 25 than their predecessors. In addition to that, after 2007, a consistent decrease has been observed in the proportion of respondents who approve of starting an independent life before one turns 20. Conversely, leaving one’s parents at 23 to 25 is becoming the new social norm, as most respondents in this age group consider it the right time to start off on their own. In other words, young people tend to postpone independence to a later age.

However, the study's authors believe that for a more complete and accurate picture, additional variables must be considered, such as education, occupation and income levels – thus mapping out a plan for their future research.


Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, May 13, 2015