They're back and they're unemployed

For some reason, that empty nest you expected is a bit crowded and it appears to be a growing condition across the country.

Despite graduating first from secondary school and university, allowing you a well-deserved break, he's back. And with him is the gaming system taking space under your new flat screen TV, while he slowly eats you out of house and home. But worse, there is no job in sight.

It's happening often these days: Saddled with student loan debt and unable to find jobs, more young adults in their 20s are “boomeranging” back home, causing frustration for them as well as for their parents, many of whom have been impacted by the recession.

The middle and working class thought they could attain good things for their children by working hard to send them to university. What message is being sent to the children? They are thinking, 'My parents told me I could be whatever I wanted, I could get a good job with a degree.'

Jennifer Lynn Tanner, Health Care Policy and Aging Researcher

Feeling “Stuck”

The unemployment rate remains high across the country, but the effect has been greater among young adults than the general population. Couple that with a fierce competition for the available jobs and young adults in their 20s are increasingly faced with no job, or just part-time work.

Returning home or staying put has become the best option for many young Brits.

"It is frustrating for us and our son,” said Monique Delerme. Her 22-year-old son, Owen, has been looking for work since his return home in December 2010 from serving in Iraq. “It’s difficult not only from a financial standpoint, but on an emotional level as well. My son tells me, 'Whatever job opens up, a 30- or 40-year-old gets ahead of me.' "

The unemployment rate for June 2012, as compiled by the Office for National Statistics, was 8.2 percent. The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance - increased by 8,100 to 1.6 million in May of 2012.

Among those 25 to 35 years old, prospects aren't quite as bleak but still higher than the average.

So what is the solution? Move back home.

According to Frank F. Furstenberg, author of "On a New Schedule: Transitions to Adulthood and Family Change," nearly half of all young adults in their late teens and early 20s still live with their parents. By the late 20s, the rate drops below one in seven, and below one in 10 by the early 30s.

“Older workers are hanging onto their jobs longer,” said Barbara E. Ray, who co-authored "Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It’s Good for Everyone." “Kids coming out of college don’t have the kind of experience that older workers do. They are the last hired and the first let go.”

Without a job, many young adults feel stuck in their path to adulthood. Employment, according to the Network on Transitions to Adulthood, is one marker toward adulthood. Other markers cited by almost 1,400 adults in a 2002 survey included finishing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent from one's parents, being able to support a family, marrying, and becoming a parent.

“Jobs make everything run smoothly,” said Ray. There is also concern that the current recession will have deep economic reverberations, due to young adults starting at lower wages than usual. “This is different from any recession in the past. It’s driving down wages. We won’t bounce back quickly.”

The impact on families

It’s no surprise that parents are feeling the squeeze as they continue to provide emotional and financial support, while grappling with the drop of the market value of their homes and possible delayed retirements due to declining retirement accounts.

The Network on Transitions to Adulthood found that across all income levels, parents were spending about 10 percent of their household income on their young adult children. “Even if the kids are putting some money toward their room and board, if your family is financially stressed, it is still more burdensome," said Ray.

There is not just an economic cost but there is an emotional toll as well. Some experts feel this generation could experience a profound psychological impact

"The middle and working class thought they could attain good things for their children by working hard to send them to college," Tanner said. "What message is being sent to the kids? They are thinking, 'My parents told me I could be whatever I wanted, I could get a good job with a degree.' "

Coping with the new reality

Parents and their children caught during this transitional phase can feel as though they’re in limbo but there is a potential upside.

An alleviating factor for many families is that the parent-child relationship is closer than that of previous generations, and that can help ease some of the tensions. It could help for families in this situation to see it as a blessing in disguise.

It is important for parents to understand their children may feel powerless in this situation. Psychotherapist Rebecca Conkling recommends establishing boundaries and expectations without being autocratic to help establish a feeling of inclusion.

For example, the young adults can share in housekeeping duties and meal preparation. If they use the car, they should buy the petrol. In addition, issues of having guests of the opposite sex sleep over, or not coming home in the evening need to be discussed.

“The children should be able to bring up anything they wish but if there is something that cannot be compromised, the parents win by default since they are the ones who pay the bills,” Conkling said.

It can also be helpful for parents to use this time to help their children navigate a financial world they may have little experience with.

“This is not the time for nagging. It’s a time for real adult conversations," Ray said. "You can teach them about budgets, and reading the fine print on credit-card agreements.”

And maybe catch up on those opportunities you thought were lost.

A brief history of young adulthood

In many ways, young adults in 2011 are more like their counterparts from 100 years ago. During the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century, the livelihoods of many families centered around the farm, rather than the job market. Like today's 20-somethings, however, the path toward adulthood was a more gradual process, with young adults living at home until they were economically able to set up their own household, marry and have children.

A more vibrant economy after World War II led to a quicker path toward adulthood. Marriages took place shortly after the completion of secondary school, and manufacturing jobs enabled high school graduates, as well as the university-educated, to find well-paying jobs with good benefits.

The 1960s ushered a wave of social changes with the women’s movement, and young adults extending their education in college. The 1970s saw a change in the economy as manufacturing jobs began to disappear and a service economy emerged. Women were entering the workforce in record numbers, and marriage and having children were not as urgent. Beginning in the 1980s and into the 1990s, the age of marriage began to rise to their current levels of age 26 for women and over 27 for men. The 1990s also saw a rise of 20-somethings living at home due to rising costs, which has accelerated in the early 21st century.

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About the Author

A native New Yorker, Haydee Camacho has been writing articles since 1986. Her work has appeared in "New York Daily News," "Newsday," "Big Apple Parenting," "Voice of Youth Advocates" and various community newspapers. Camacho holds a Master of Library and Information Science from St. John's University.