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Weekly Reader Roundup

Over the next two weeks we offer a round-up of news about parents and adult children, including short posts on things that annoy us, money matters, a study on gay parents, infidelity, driving less and texting more, and Kippers (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement, not the fish!)

Things That Annoy Us!

Be honest. Does your adult child sometimes push your buttons?  Humor writer Roz Warren admits her children do, and has thoughtfully provided a list of the “Top 15 ways our adult children disappoint us.”

A few favorites, and feel free to forward to the guilty parties:

  •  They live in a distant city, happy and sufficient, and never phone us.
  • They do phone us, but only when they want something.
  • They vacation in St. Barts instead of joining the clan at the mammoth family gathering at Uncle Mo’s place in Bugtussle, Wyoming.
  • They decide to tell us all about how we ruined their childhood—at our 50th birthday party.
  • They somehow get the idea that we like porcelain angels, and that’s all they ever get us for birthdays, holiday gifts, and Mother’s Day.
  • When they borrow the car, they change all the preset stations from NPR to Top 40.
  •  They don’t have time to spend Thanksgiving with us, just to stop by to drop off the vintage catamaran they want to store on our driveway.

Money Matters

 If your adult child needs to borrow money for a big expense who gets asked,  mom or dad?  Turns out that while adult children are more comfortable talking to mom about money matters, it’s dad who’s more likely to open his checkbook.  That’s the finding of a new survey, “Money Across Generations,” which found that 93 percent of baby boomer parents have helped their adult children with a major expense.

The survey reports that fathers are more likely than mothers to say they have helped their child buy an automobile (58% vs. 48%), co-signed a loan or lease agreement (42% vs. 32%), helped pay for auto insurance (51% vs. 43%), and with car payments (37% vs. 29%0.

Parental largess does end at some point.  Indeed a U.S. Trust survey of wealthy baby boomers found that only 55 percent believe it’s important to leave an inheritance. The top five reasons for not leaving a windfall:

  • “It’s more important to invest in my children’s/heirs’ success while they’re growing up.”
  • “I worked hard for my wealth and will want to enjoy it myself.”
  • “I would rather give the money to charity.”
  • “My children/heirs will have enough money and don’t need an inheritance.”
  • “Each generation should earn its own wealth.”

Many of us give financial help to our adult children, especially those in college.  Did you ever calculate exactly how much you’re spending?  An average of about $7,500 in the past year if you’re the parent of a 19 to 22 year old, according to a recent study, conducted between 2005 and 2009.

Not included in that tab was a tally for room, board or food.  What was counted was housing away from home, a vehicle, college tuition, help paying bills or just as a gift or personal loan.

Writing in Psychology Today, millennial expert Barbara Ray notes that the study’s “researchers found that a child’s demeanor early on predicts how much financial help they will receive later. So any 12-year-olds reading this: shape up and play nice.”

The press release noted:

“Basically this finding shows that parents are more inclined to provide extra support to children whom they perceive as more positive and outgoing. They’re more likely to help those who, even at a young age, help themselves.”

Among the key findings:

  • About 42 percent of respondents reported their parents helped them pay bills, with those receiving help getting an average of $1,741;
  • Nearly 35 percent of young adults said their parents helped with college tuition, with those receiving help given an average of $10,147;
  • About 23 percent received help with vehicles (about $9,682 on average);
  • About 22 percent received help with their rent away from home ($3,937 on average);
  • About 11 percent said they received loans from their parents ($2,079 on average) and nearly 7 percent said they received financial gifts (average amount of $8,220).

Gay Parents Study

A controversial new study found that young adults who came from a broken home with a gay parent “reported modestly more psychological and social problems in their current lives than peers from other families that had experienced divorce and other disruptions,” reported The New York Times. 

The study generated several articles criticizing the scholarship and bias of the research.  In a New Yorker piece which included links to many of the critical pieces, Amy Davidson wrote,

“If this study shows anything, it’s not the effect of gay parenting, but of non-or absentee parenting. The numbers are so clumsy that it’s hard to generalize, but one can reasonably guess that there are, buried in them, stories of parents who left or were separated from their children, or households that fell apart, because, eighteen to thirty-nine years ago, someone’s first try at an adult life involved a heterosexual relationship, even if that wasn’t sustainable.

Taking a different view, New York Time conservative columnist Ross Douthat posits that the study supports,

 a growing body of research [that] indicates that no other parental arrangement, from single motherhood to cohabitation to shared custody, affords as many social, economic and emotional advantages as being raised by two biological parents joined in a lifelong commitment.

The study was completed by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas in Austin, who looked a nationally representative sample of 2,988 people ages 18 to 39.

Infidelity

Cate Edwards, the 30-year-old daughter of disgraced politician John Edwards, stood at his side during his five-week-long trial on misuse of campaign funds to support his mistress and their daughter. We can only imagine what Ms. Edwards must have been feeling as she listened to testimony with the sordid details of her father’s affair.

The impact of infidelity can be devastating no matter the age of the child.  Dr. Ana Nogales, the author of a book on the topic, wrote in a Psychology Today post:

Their perception of love and marriage can be forever altered; their self esteem and trust are often severely damaged; and as adults they often choose unfaithful partners or become unfaithful themselves—in an unconscious unconscious attempt to act out, understand, or overcome what happened between their parents…Many feel as if the shame of their parent’s transgression reflects directly upon them. Some turn away from their unfaithful parent and take on the inappropriate role of caretaking their betrayed parent.

Driving Less

Remember when you couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license and take off into the night with your parents’ car?

Many adult children aren’t sharing that rite of passage.  More than a quarter of millennials lacked a driver’s license in 2010, up 5 percentage points from 2000, the Federal Highway Administration reported.  In roughly the same time period, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by people ages 16-34 dropped 23 percent, according to the federal government’s National Household Travel Survey.

Apparently millennials let their fingers do the walking, keeping in contact with friends by texting and on Facebook.

And the younger siblings are driving even less, with fewer than a third of 16-year-olds and half of 17-year-olds now getting their licenses, according to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

Prof. Michael Svak, a co-author of the study, compared statistics in 15 countries between access to technology and the delay in getting licenses. He found that those countries with the highest Internet usage had the lower proportion of younger drivers. He told the Albany Times Union, “Because of all the ease of connecting instantly, there is less of a need to plan ahead to see a friend.”

Of course, the price of gas and car insurance may also have something do to with the numbers!

KIPPERS

From Australia, comes a new acronym:  KIPPERS, which translate to Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement.

Not only are Kippers digging into the retirement nest eggs, apparently boomerang kids cause parents more stress.  An Australian website poll found that  parents with Kippers report greater stress in their personal relationships (52% vs 42%) and thoughts about the future (77% vs 70%) than empty-nester parents.

 

 

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