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Publication #FAR1620

Failure to Launch? Grown Children and Parental Support1

Carol Church2

Figure 1. 
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They call it “failure to launch,” and most 20-somethings I’ve known hope not to have the phrase applied to them. Yet, experts acknowledge that it’s become common for people in their 20s to get financial help from their parents, or even to move back home. Some suggest that in these economically uncertain times, this longer transition to adulthood is only natural (Swartz, Kim, Uno, Mortimer, & O'Brien, 2011).

But when does this assistance finally stop? And how do parents decide whom to help? A new study in the Journal of Marriage and Family draws on surveys from more than 700 adults between 24 and 32 and their parents to answer these questions (Swartz et al., 2011).

The study focused on two kinds of help from parents: providing money and allowing the child to move back home. As one might expect, parents were more likely to aid adult children who were encountering serious problems, like unemployment, divorce, or illness. Parents also helped adult children who were still in school, perhaps seeing this as an investment in the future. However, parents were much less likely to help children once they married or moved in with someone (Swartz et al., 2011).

Meanwhile, it appears that 40 year olds who still inhabit their childhood bedrooms remain fairly rare. Although close to half of the grown children got help from mom and dad in their early 20s, less than 15% of those in their 30s received help—suggesting that most of today’s children do eventually leave the nest, even if they linger at the edge a bit longer than they once did (Swartz et al., 2011).

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Swartz, T. T., Kim, M., Uno, M., Mortimer, J., & O'Brien, K. B. (2011). Safety nets and scaffolds: Parental support in the transition to adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73(2), 414–429. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00815.x.



This document is FAR1620, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date March 20, 2011, as program 1627. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.