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Should I stay or should I go?

Young Adults’ Intentions to Leave Home and the Drivers Behind Them

Adult son moving out

Leaving one’s parental home is often a major turning point in a young person’s life, but questions remain on what encompasses and drives this transition. The underlying process behind it can be divided into two phases: intention formation and realisation. While the latter has been studied extensively, relatively little is known about the decision-making process leading young adults to actually form the intention to move out for the first time.

In a new study, Katrin Schwanitz (Tallinn University), Francesco Rampazzo (Saïd Business School, Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, and Nuffield College, University of Oxford) and Agnese Vitali (Università degli Studi di Trento) set out to tackle this research gap with a wide-ranging 12-country study on leaving-home intentions and their determinants, using data from the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) for Europe. The authors specifically investigate the causes beyond country differences in deciding to leave the parental home by looking at young people’s personal preferences, normative pressure and perceived structural barriers. They also explore whether the role of these three factors varies by gender or age.

The results of their study indicate that leaving-home intentions are influenced by both the perception that living separately from parents would improve young adults’ freedom and the perceived pressure from significant others to leave home. Additionally, perceived structural barriers such as labour and housing markets play an important role in shaping the decision-making process. Similar to the realization of leaving home, the formation of intentions differs across national contexts, with young Western and Northern Europeans more often expressing an intention to leave the parental home than young Italians or Eastern Europeans. In terms of gender differences, the study finds that women are more often than men expressing an intention to leave the parental home. Across geographic locations, the results show that young adults expect to be better off once they leave the parental home. However, young adults in Italy and most of the Eastern European countries experience more pressure to leave the parental home than their peers in other countries.

The results overall confirm that personal preferences, normative pressure and perceived structural barriers are the main drivers for young adults’ leaving-home intentions. It also underscores the importance of cross-national comparative research on leaving-home intentions for understanding young adults’ leaving home behaviour. A widening of the analytical focus in this way offers the prospect of a more nuanced understanding of the transition to adulthood and its key markers.

Author(s) of the original publication
Katrin Schwanitz