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Boomerang child?

[ 2011-09-23 15:16]     字号 [] [] []  
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Boomerang child?

Reader question:

Please explain “‘boomerang’ child” in this passage:

This (inability to deal with the financial and emotional pressures of the world) has led many young people to become a “boomerang” child and move back home after college instead of venturing out into the world, or never leaving home at all. According to the Census Bureau, one-third of American men between the ages of 22 and 34 still live with their parents, a number which has doubled over the last two decades.

My comments:

A boomerang child is not a child but in fact an adult. Boomerang children refer to those young adults who, as the above text explains, choose to live with their parents when they have, theoretically speaking outgrown their dependence on parental care and perhaps even outlived their welcome at home. To wit, as they’re 21 or older, they should have left home to never return to bother their parents again.

They may return to enjoy the occasion family reunion, of course. Please, by all means, do that and do it often. But don’t come back home for money and other help which may become a burden to your elders.

Anyways, boomerang children are those who return home to do things like that and, to make matters worse, they’re home to stay.

Boomerang of course refers to the returning boomerang, the flying toy you throw away but which, if you do it right, will do an about turn some 20 meters away and circle back to your feet. Hence the coinage of “boomerang child” – a child who RETURNS. After going to college, getting a job, perhaps getting married too, these people then return to live with their parents again when, obviously, as an adult, they should be able to fend for themselves.

Usually, the reasons for their making a boomerang return are financial. And the financial problems are real. It’s simply hard for young people to gain a foothold financially when they’re fresh into the workforce nowadays, don’t you think? Harder than before, at any rate, and boomerang children are increasing in number for a fact. A Bankrate.com article ( Living with Boomerang Children, May 16, 2005) says, for instance:

In 2001, Statistics Canada reported that 41 percent of the 3.8 million 20 to 29 year olds in the country lived with their parents -- an increase from 27 percent in 1981.

I have seen similar trends reported in the United States.

The long and short of it is, once they return home and remain, the children’s problems become a problem for their parents also. It’s now a shared problem and you can only hope that they, boomerang kids and ma and pa can jointly deal with the problem without having to go through quibbles and quarrels on a daily, or even hourly, basis.

And hope we will but to be fair, sometimes parents have contributed to their children’s unseasonable homecoming in the first place. In Chinese big cities, for example, many boomerang kids are the only child of a family. In these families, parents tend to pamper their kids more than necessary, refusing, for instance, to let their “little emperors” do any “hardship” work such as making their own bed in the morning.

Others may have secretly wanted their grownup children to come back and take care of them at an old age. Therefore, they never teach their kid sufficient independence skills.

The long and short of it, again, is, these children are ill-prepared when they are out of college and into society (supposedly) ready to take on the whole wide world. And when money becomes a problem, which is not inconceivable at all for today’s youngsters who are all very prone to spend more than they are able to earn, they come back to the parents for help. And living with their parents spares them of the daunting task of buying a house of their own altogether – At today’s prices, that is a daunting task to be sure.

And when money becomes a problem even for their parents who, come to think of it, have already forked out a lot financing their increasingly expensive education, then the whole family is in trouble.

And financial trouble turns easily into emotional problems, if emotional stress wasn’t present to begin with.

Ah, well, I see it is easy when we only have the “boomerang child” as a linguistic problem to deal with. And we’d be wise to keep it that way – dealing with it linguistically. So, here and now, let’s move on to a recent media example on the subject:

A word to Bay Area parents: You may want to hold off on converting those empty bedrooms into offices and exercise spaces.

High unemployment and changing social norms are guiding young -- and not-so-young -- adults to move back home, new census data shows.

“It’s almost becoming a normal step,” said Joshua Coleman, a Bay Area psychologist who is a co-chairman of the Council on Contemporary Families. “Children leave home and go away to college -- or don't -- and then move back in with the parents for a while.”

Almost 31 percent of all children living at home in California are 18 or older -- up 7 percent from 2000 and reflecting a national trend. Over the past decade, the number of adult children living with their parents grew by 21 percent in the East Bay and 14 percent in Silicon Valley.

This is puzzling to parents who, in their time, couldn’t possibly envision moving back in with mom and dad.

“We all worked,” said Linda Hodges, 49. “The minute we could, we got apartments to live the single life.”

Two of Hodges’ five adopted and biological children have moved back to her San Leandro house; a third recently lost his job and may return home as well.

“The job market is just so tight,” Hodges said. Many of her sons’ friends also live with their parents, she said.

Nearly every Bay Area city saw a rise in “boomerang kids” over the past decade. Adults now account for more than a third of children living at home in San Leandro, Hayward, Union City, Hercules, San Bruno and San Francisco, among other cities.

The U.S. Census Bureau attributed the trend mostly to economic factors in a report this spring, noting that adults who are poorer or less educated have the greatest odds of living in what is called a “doubled-up household.”

Liz Lynn and her husband live with her parents in San Jose. The 34-year-old made the move two years ago to save for a down payment for a house.

“It allows us to gain some footing and be able to get into a place in a decent neighborhood. We were all of the mindset that renting is just throwing money away and not helping us. We decided if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes,” she said.

- Lean times force many Bay Area 'boomerang kids' to return home as adults, MercuryNews.com, July 17, 2011.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Dog in a manger?

Last-ditch idea?

Master plan?

Stepping up to the plate?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)