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  • Project contributors: Heath S, Calvert E,

    This Project is part of the following research programme/s:

    Longer lives


    This research set out to explore the extent to which younger generations being able to live independently is underpinned by financial and material support from parents and other relatives, as well as between friends, and considered the impact of ongoing support on young adults' relationships with family members and friends. It also considered young people's housing aspirations, the different strategies adopted by them in seeking to satisfy their housing needs, and how their own experiences compared with those of their siblings and friends.

    Fieldwork consisted of 37 qualitative interviews, each beginning with the completion of a housing history grid to track participants' housing pathways since first leaving home. Participants, consisting of 22 women and 15 men aged 25 to 34 (mean age of 29), then narrated their housing histories in their own terms before more focused questions were asked. Three quarters of interviewees were graduates. The nature of the sample allowed the research to focus in particular on the changing nature of graduate housing pathways: specifically, to explore whether the relatively privileged nature of graduate housing pathways revealed by research conducted by Heath in the late 1990s still applied.

    One of the key findings was that it is common for parents and older relatives to help out financially in enabling young adults to live independently. The vast majority of participants had received financial and material support from family members since leaving home. Examples included both ad hoc and regular monetary assistance towards offsetting general living expenses. These ranged from modest contributions towards household bills through to substantial one-off sums on first leaving home.

    A second key finding was that the parental home provides an important fallback option for many single young adults. The majority of participants had returned to theparental home at least once since first leaving, with rent often either subsidised or waived to facilitate saving. Return was usually linked toconstrained circumstances, such as unemployment,illness, relationship breakdown or following completion of periods of study.

    In addition, young adults experience considerable ambivalence about their ongoing dependency on parents, with reliance on parents for varying degrees of material and financial support long after leaving home being a common experience. Whilst grateful, they also felt that their autonomy as young adults was compromised by their dependency and that they should really be able to make their own way in life at their age.

    Meanwhile, financial exchanges involving friends are generally avoided at all costs, including in the form of joint mortgage arrangements. There was a widespread reluctance to lend money to friends or to borrow from them, except for very small sums. Friends and debt were largely regarded as a toxic mix with the potential to harm friendships.

    Publications & Activities

    Negotiating Parental Support for Housing in the UK
    Housing Wealth and Welfare Conference (2016). (University of Amsterdam)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Passing it on: negotiating intergenerational family support for the independent living costs of single young adults
    British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2012 (2012). (Leeds)
    Authors: Heath S, Calvert E,

    Single Young Adults and their Housing Pathways
    Young adults' housing and independent living: New insights (2012). (Local Government House, London)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Counting on the bank of mum and dad? Family support and the attainment of residential independence
    Institute of Education Seminars (2011). (University of London)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Counting on the bank of mum and dad? Family support and the attainment of residential independence
    Lecture (2011). (School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Generation Rent and parental support for housing
    School of Social Sciences Seminar (2011). (University of Manchester)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Counting on the bank of mum and dad? Family support and the attainment of residential independence
    Thomas Coram Research Unit seminar (2011). (Institute of Education)
    Authors: Heath S,

    The role of family and friends in young people's strategies for achieving residential independence: some preliminary findings
    CRFR International Conference 2010, Changing Families in a Changing World (2010). (University of Edinburgh)
    Authors: Heath S, Calvert E,

    Changing Interdependencies, Changing Biographies: Young People's Strategies in Pursuit of Residential Independence
    XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology (2010). (Gothenburg, Sweden)
    Authors: Heath S, Calvert E,

    Keynote presentation: Housing, households and changing (inter)dependencies: comparative reflections in troubled times
    BSA Youth Study Group Postgraduate Seminar: Youth Transitions in a Time of Recession (2009). (University of Kent)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Housing choices and issues for young people in the UK
    Children, Young People and Housing in Wales (2009). (Shelter Cymru Conference, Cardiff)
    Authors: Heath S,

    Living alone in young adulthood: findings for the UK 1988-2008
    Centre for Research on Families and Relationships Solo-Living Seminar (2009). (University of Edinburgh)
    Authors: Stone J, Berrington A,

    Living without kin: the rise in non-family living among young adults in the UK
    European living arrangements workshop (2009). (London School of Economics)
    Authors: Stone J, Berrington A, Calvert E, Heath S,

    Heath S, Brooks R, Cleaver E, Ireland E, (2009) Researching Young People's Lives


    Does the Bank of Mum and Dad compromise independence? BBC Radio 4. 2016
    Sue Heath is interviewed about her CPC research on single young adults with Emma Calvert on the BBC Radio 4 Money Box programme titled "Does the Bank of Mum and Dad compromise independence?"