Young adults are living at home longer, challenging our culture’s value of individual autonomy

Written by Elizabeth Duarte

“We’ve come full circle,” my mother said amusedly. “You used to keep me up all night as a baby, now we’re right back where we started.”

I chuckled wryly at her as she sat next to me on the futon, helping me take my medications at 3 a.m.

Full circle indeed! I went from a colicky baby to an independent adolescent, taking my first job at 12 to prepare for the onslaught of adulthood. I needed to buy a house, a car, and pay for college, so the sooner I started, the better. 

After living a province away for three years and finishing a bachelor’s degree with plans to move overseas, I ended up at 21 in the last place I expected—living with my parents for ten years and counting. Lyme disease and other vector illnesses contracted from a common wood tick had rendered me unable to live alone or to continue with the life I’d planned.

Research shows I’m not the only one. In 2021, Statistics Canada estimated that 45 per cent of young adults ages 20-34 in urban centers such as Oshawa and Toronto find that returning home after a time of independence simply makes sense.

Life circumstances can necessitate this move: Financial insecurities, higher cost of living, inflated housing markets, uncertainty—accompanied by a stark realization of one’s fragility and mortality amid a global pandemic—or a downward spiral in health requiring the love and support of a caregiver (for a child or parent).

Not everyone understands such a dramatic shift in the life of a young adult. Some look down upon it, as though going back to one’s family, one’s childhood home, makes them once more a child. Aimless, coddled, immature, and unwise. 

Does God share in this perception? Or is this philosophy tied instead to a society praising individualism over the collective common good?

In the past, Indigenous nations and later settlers in North America lived off the land—typically in small communities. However, times have changed. Much of our physical labour needs are now carried out by machinery, and families have become more affluent. As Ronald E. Riggio writes in an article for Psychology Today, with the comfort and security of economic self-reliance and time on their hands, people have begun to focus on individual endeavours and goals.

We live in a time of self-confidence, self-fulfillment, and the iconic “selfie.” Though platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram are useful tools to stay connected, they focus on gaining validation and status through likes and attention from peers. 

The Bible paints a different picture of what we should aim for. In Psalms and Deuteronomy, primarily parents, not peers, are tasked with passing wisdom and knowledge to children. In return, the apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 5:1-5 that those who are younger should be subject to their elders in humility. Nowhere does Scripture specify this relationship is to stop after age 18. 

Moving home gives ample opportunity to live out these principles in the communal setting of the family.

It requires humility, a placing of oneself not only under the same roof but also under the guidance of family, accepting their support. 

There are other opportunities as well, as God instructs us to live out these principles in the Church. The book of Titus tells us the life of the believer is to be filled with mentoring relationships, those older and wiser speaking into the lives of the younger. 

Examples painted throughout Scripture include Eli and Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, and Paul and Timothy. These weren’t one-time conversations, but an intentional, consistent effort to build relationships and share instruction. 

As Nickolas Hartman writes in an article published in For the Church, “It is something more than just another meeting. It’s discipleship that dives in and connects the hearts of older men and women with younger.”

Hebrews 13:7 declares, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (NASB).

We need each other—elderly, young, and everyone in between.

While society frowns upon those who turn away from our North American independent ideals, we might do well to consider that this humble submission of allowing oneself to be mentored, supported, and taught, whether at home or in the church community, may be the very thing that allows us to find true success in life.