Young adults returning to live with parents during COVID-19

Snapshot Series - Issue 8

Content type
Commissioned report

February 2023


Tracy Evans-Whipp, Jennifer Prattley

Commissioning Body

Growing Up In Australia

What do we know?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, young adults in their late teens to mid-twenties have experienced significant disruptions to their studies, employment and social lives. These disruptions have occurred during an important phase of life when young people increasingly take on 'adult' roles and responsibilities and become more independent from their parents.

During times of uncertainty and stress, parents can provide economic, emotional and practical support to their children, which may help improve their resilience and ability to cope. In Australia, around a fifth of young adults have moved out of the family home by 21 years of age. Some of them return each year but this 'boomerang' phenomenon may have been exacerbated by the pandemic as young adults turned to parents for help and assistance. The COVID-19 pandemic may have significant implications for the future health, social and economic wellbeing of this age group.

What can we learn?

The experiences of young adults during the COVID period are not well understood. This snapshot reports on data from two national longitudinal studies of young people: Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) and the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), that both surveyed 20-21 year olds in the first year of the pandemic in mid to late 2020. We examine the difficulties faced by young adults during the first national COVID-19 restrictions between March and May 2020 and young adult returns to the family home during the first year of the pandemic. This snapshot addresses four main questions: (1) What difficulties did young adults experience at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic (March-May 2020)? (2) Was there an increase in the number of young adults in Australia returning to live with their parent(s) during 2020? (3) What were the characteristics of young adults who returned to live with parents? (4) What supports were needed and obtained from parents?

Key Findings

  1. Young adults experienced a range of difficulties in their employment, finances, study and social lives during the first national COVID-19 restriction period (March-May 2020).
  2. Young females were especially affected in the restriction period. Females were more likely than males to report loneliness and social isolation, and female students reported lower levels of motivation and concentration with their study. More females than males reported financial stress.  
  3. There was a marked increase in the numbers of young adults returning to live with their parents at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 5% of all 20-21 year olds began living with their parent(s) during the first national COVID-19 restriction period in March-May 2020.  
  4. Young adults from Victoria and those who weren't working during the restriction period were approximately two times more likely to return to live with parents. 
  5. Young adults who received government payments (e.g. JobKeeper) were 68% less likely to return to live with parents. 
  6. During the restriction period many young adults who returned to live with parents had increased needs for emotional (57%) and financial (37%) support and advice (52%) from parents.
  7. While positive for most, a minority of returning young adults found living with parents again difficult or not beneficial. One in five (20%) found spending more time with family during the restriction period difficult and one in 10 (11%) did not have their need for support met by their parents and family.

Authors: Dr Tracy Evans-Whipp and Dr Jennifer Prattley 
Series editors: Dr Tracy Evans-Whipp and Dr Bosco Rowland 
Copy editor: Katharine Day 
Graphic design: Lisa Carroll

This research would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of the Growing Up in Australia children and their families.

Email: [email protected]

The study is a partnership between the Department of Social Services and the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and is advised by a consortium of leading Australian academics. The Australian Bureau of Statistics were also partners of the study until 2022, with Roy Morgan joining at this point. Findings and views expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors and may not reflect those of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Department of Social Services, the Australian Bureau of Statistics or Roy Morgan.

About Growing Up in Australia

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is an ongoing national study that, at recruitment, was representative of all Australian children. It follows the lives of children and their families from all over Australia. In 2004, around 5,000 0–1 year olds (B cohort) and 5,000 4–5 year olds (K cohort) and their families were recruited and have been surveyed approximately every two years since. With extensive information on children's physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and behavioural development and linked biomarkers, education, health and welfare data, the study has been a unique resource providing evidence for policy makers to identify opportunities for early intervention and prevention strategies.

Other data source

Data from LSAC is complemented with data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY). LSAY focuses on the key transitions and pathways in the lives of young people, particularly the transitions from compulsory schooling to further education, training and the labour market. LSAY follows several cohorts of young Australians annually from their mid-teens to mid-twenties across a 10-year period. The LSAY samples are designed to be representative of 15-year-old Australian school students in the year they were recruited into the study. LSAY is managed by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research and conducted by Wallis Social Research on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Education.

Featured image: © GettyImages/Sladic


Evans-Whipp, T., & Prattley, J. (2023). Young adults returning to live with parents during the COVID-19 pandemic (Growing Up in Australia Snapshot Series - Issue 8). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.