“Take it as it comes”: How Australian families make the return to co-residence work

Housing and living arrangements
Thursday 26 July, 1400 – 1420


Dr Elyse Warner
School of Health and Social Development, Faculty of Health, Deakin University

Australian families in the 21st century are increasingly called upon to support their offspring as they face challenges with study, employment, housing and relationships. Many parents provide financial assistance and accommodation in the family home, either allowing their children to delay their departure or negotiate a return. But what makes this latter arrangement actually “work” for parents and their offspring?

Drawing on qualitative interviews with 10 Australian families, this paper explores the experiences of parents and young people who return to co-residence after time living apart. Findings suggested that acceptance was key to the success of the living arrangement. The young people, although experiencing mixed feelings about returning, reached eventual acceptance by focusing on how received parental support would allow them to get their lives back on track or plan for the future.

Parents, on the other hand, appeared to be more accepting from the outset, suggesting that supporting their offspring was part of their parental role. However, despite this acceptance by both parties, and the recognition that the arrangement was likely to be relatively temporary, family members still had to work out ways to negotiate multiple adjustments in terms of space, boundaries and their relationships.

While returning to co-residence is not an option for all families, adopting a “take it as it comes” approach could be encouraged for those who do. Ultimately, with young people likely to require ongoing family support beyond what is expected, understanding what works when sharing the parental home is increasingly important for family practitioners.