Research Programme

Leaving and Returning Home in the UK

Ann Berrington, Jane Falkingham, Juliet Stone

Project summary


The key objective of this project was to document and explain changes over the past two decades in young adults’ living arrangements. It looked at the trends in living arrangements over the past two decades, and the characteristics of those who remain living in the parental home in their late twenties and early thirties.

It also investigated how individual, parental and contextual factors determine the timing of leaving the parental home, and the life course experiences that are associated with the likelihood of returning. In addition, the role that social policies play in influencing the ability of young adults’ to maintain residential independence was considered.


This quantitative project ran alongside the qualitative work of Heath and Calvert on non-family living among young adults and provided the context for this work. The two projects (quantitative and qualitative) aimed to address inter-related issues regarding living arrangements in young adulthood.

First, data from the UK Labour Force Survey was used to examine changes over time in living arrangements. The second phase used the same data, but differentiated those young adults living outside of the parental home according to whether they were living in a new family, living alone, or sharing with others outside of a family.In the third phase, data from the British Household Panel Study (BHPS) was used – in which young adults are interviewed annually – to investigate factors related to leaving and returning to the parental home. 


The research showed that living in the parental home has become particularly common for those in their mid-twenties and early thirties. Although women still tend to leave home earlier than men and are less likely to return, gender differences are reducing as more young women enrol in higher education. There has been a shift towards living outside a family on leaving the parental home, which is again related to higher education but also to increased immigration of young adults into the UK. The expansion of higher education has also led to increased returns to the parental home, particularly for young women in their early twenties.

Economic factors are important for delaying home-leaving, including local house prices as well as individual circumstances such as being unemployed. In terms of returning, experiencing a separation or divorce is a key event, but its effect differs for men and women and for those with and without children. In particular, newly unpartnered mothers are unlikely to return to live with their parents, probably due to reliance on the welfare state, while single, non-resident fathers – who have little access to welfare support – are the group most likely to return after a partnership ends. These findings may become increasingly important in view of recent policy changes relating to, for example, housing benefit and social housing.


Project activities

Date Activity Description
29 November 2016 Paper presented at the "Workshop on Family Formation and Change" held at the British Academy in London. Ann Berrington presents the paper "Young adults leaving and returning home: insights from BHPS and Understanding Society" at the event.
4 March 2015 “Gender, Turning Points and Boomerangs: Returning Home in Young Adulthood in Great Britain” Changing Mobilities and the Fluid Lifecourse of Young Adults seminar event, The Dome, New Register House, Edinburgh Seminar presented by Juliet Stone






Berrington, A., Stone, J. and Falkingham, J. (2009) The changing living arrangements of young adults in the UKPopulation Trends, 138, 27-37.

Stone, J., Berrington, A. and Falkingham, J. (2011) The changing determinants of UK young adults’ living arrangementsDemographic Research, 25, 629-666.

Stone, J., Berrington, A. and Falkingham, J. (2014) Gender, turning points, and boomerangs: returning home in young adulthood in Great BritainDemography, 51, (1), 257-276.


Media activities

"Meet the ‘cuckoo kids’ moving back to the family homeon 12 October 2014.

Back in the nest” in The Sunday Times “Home” supplement – 12 October 2014.

"The boomerang generation"in The Times magazine supplement – 3 May 2014.

"Multiple family households rise in UKon– 6 February 2014.

"She's leaving home - bye bye: or maybe not!on – 23 January 2014.

"New research identifies why young adults return to the parental homeon – 11 January 2014.


You can also browse all of our CPC media outputs and population-related articles from CPC members on our! page.