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Research project

Transitions to adulthood and the buffering effect of intergenerational support

Project overview

The past decade has seen a persistent rise in the age at which young adults leave the parental home, as well as an increase in returning home, particularly following the end of university, job loss, and partnership break-up. Young adults who live away from the parental home are increasingly likely to share accommodation, rather than live alone. Increasingly, residential independence and partnership formation are becoming disconnected from the process of new household formation, with important implications for housing need. These changes have occurred over the past decades in response to increasing economic and housing uncertainties. The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced these trends.

This project examines changes in transitions to adulthood and the causes and consequences of intergenerational co-residence from the perspective of young adults and their parent(s). Data from Understanding Society, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, Next Steps and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) is used to investigate differences by socio-economic status, ethnicity and geographical region. The work will investigate the role of increasing family complexity and the potential impact of increasing separation and re-partnering on the availability of parents with whom young adults can co-reside. It also examines how intergenerational co-residence inhibits or facilitates successful entry into the labour market, e.g. allowing young adults to take on internships or jobs in areas with high housing costs.

The experiences of the very youngest cohorts in 'transition to adulthood' are affected by Covid-19 and Brexit. Those who graduated or left school to enter employment in 2019 and 2020 will have entered a labour market affected by both, whilst those at university, or just about to start, will have had their learning interrupted and many will have remained living at home. For both groups, the 'traditional' stepping stones to adulthood will have been affected. The project pays particular attention to understanding the life course trajectories of the 'Class of 2020' and the extent to which young people have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is achieved using administrative data from the National Pupils Database linked with Understanding Society, Next Steps and the MCS along with linked Census data.

This work is of interest to UK and Scottish Parliament Committees and we are sharing it with them to directly influencing policy formation. We are also working with COFACE and Age Platform Europe to share our research findings and inform change at the European level.

This research project is funded through the ESRC Centre for Population Change Connecting Generations, directed by Professor Jane Falkingham. This project is jointly led by Professor Hill Kulu (University of St Andrews) and Professor Ann Berrington (University of Southampton) with Dr Katherine Keenan, Dr Mhairi Hale, Dr David McCollum, Dr Julia Mikolai (University of St Andrews), Professor David Bell (University of Stirling) and Professor Mike Brewer (Resolution Foundation).


Lead researcher

Professor Ann Berrington

Professor-Demography&Social Statistics

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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