Cost of living forces more young adults to live with parents

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Hilary Lyons has slept in the same small day bed since childhood and hasn't redecorated her room in 11 years.

A framed Disney "Aladdin" poster leans against the wall, along with a collection of stuffed lions, bunnies and Big Bird scattered all over the room. A Super Nintendo tops an old television that she uses to play Mario Kart races.

"I couldn't separate myself from it," Lyons said about her room and belongings. "It's part of my childhood."

But Lyons is not a young girl or even a teenager.

She is a 25-year-old woman with a master's degree in public administration and a room in her parents' house in East Brainerd. She also is part of a growing number of educated young professionals who have decided they need a little more time at home, experts say.

While some may classify living with parents past the late teen years as a failure to launch, many twenty-somethings say returning to the nest doesn't necessarily signal a lack of ambition. Those returning home declare that, in a world with looming education debt, high rent and gas costs, living with their parents is not as bad as it seems.

"This seemed like the best way to get my feet on the ground," said 28-year-old Brooklynn Martin, a practicing attorney who recently moved back in with her 58-year-old mother, Kathy.

Since the 1970s, the number of twenty-somethings living with their parents has increased 50 percent, according to the Network on Transitions to Adulthood, a group of researchers that studies the changing nature of early adulthood. And of those who do move out of the house, 16 percent return home before age 35, the researchers say.

Researchers and psychologists say these numbers reveal that the idea of adulthood arriving after high school or college graduation is changing and that adolescence may be longer than previously thought.

"We have a generation of people who are very smart and very technologically savvy but are maybe not prepared to get out of the house at 18," said Gail Carson-Webb, a clinical psychologist in Chattanooga who counsels parents and adult children who live together. "There is really a sense of not being ready."

In contrast with past generations, fewer individuals are getting married in their 20s and aspire to self-fulfilling work, even if that puts them on a path marked by internships, jobs without health care insurance and higher education costs, Carson-Webb said.

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Lyons, who works part time at a restaurant while she completes an internship in city government, lived away from home for a couple of years before moving back four years ago.

When she decided to pursue a master's degree in public administration, she knew she wouldn't be able to hold down a full-time job or handle the expenses of being on her own, she said.

"Renting, you are just throwing things out the window," she said.

Similarly, Martin, a prosecutor at the district attorney's office in Cleveland, Tenn., said she moved back in with her mother because she needed a financial boost. With $40,000 in debt from law school, paying $400 a month in rent and covering her car payment and loan payment proved difficult, she said.

"I don't plan on living with my mother for the rest of my life, obviously," she said. "I just say, 'Hey, I am making a lot of money. I am putting it to good use. I am putting it on my loans and putting it in the bank."'

But her mother does not give her a free ride, Martin said. To live in her mother's basement, she pays $250 a month in rent.

"My mom will get upset sometimes and say, 'What are you doing living at home?"' she said. "It is never perfect, but it has worked this far."

Joey Forester, 23, moved out of a loft in downtown Chattanooga because he could not afford rent and wanted to attend beautician school. It wasn't an easy to decision to move back home, he said, but many of his friends are faced with the same dilemma.

Carson-Webb said living with parents has lost a lot of its stigma as more and more educated young adults see it as an alternative.

Also, social mores have changed.

While many parents would not want to allow their twenty-something to have a love interest spend the night, more are accepting sex before marriage, eliminating some young adults' concerns that living at home could hinder a love life, Ms. Carson-Webb said.

"You don't have to worry about what mom and dad's reaction will be," she said.

And parents have accepted changes in social behavior as well as changing career goals. Long gone are the days when employees stayed at one company for more than 40 years and were mainly focused on getting food on the table, she said, and parents know that.

Many twenty-somethings want quality of life and the dream job, and it may require living at home for a few years after college to move closer to those goals, she said.

Lyons' mother, Pam Bare is not complaining about her live-in adult daughter.

"It has been a bonus time," said Ms. Bare, 54. "You have an adult. She's not really your child. She's grown."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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