Survey: Parents and Kids Attached at the Hip and Pocketbook

AARP reveals boomers and millennials talk more than once a day.

January 10, 2013, 2:36 PM

Jan. 11, 2013— -- Morgan Roper and her mother, Dr. Brenda Bass, are in touch at least once a day via phone, text or email, and there are few subjects they can't openly talk about -- even sex and dating.

Bass is a pediatrician, living in Los Angeles, and her 24-year-old daughter works as a production coordinator for "Dora the Explorer" in New York City, but the distance doesn't stand in the way of their closeness.

"Yesterday I talked to her four times," said Roper. "Some days when I am having a crisis, then I call Mom. I come up with a good solution and then get her advice."

A survey of 1,034 young adults (aged 21 to 26) and 1,229 parents (aged 47 to 66) published in the latest issue of AARP The Magazine shows that boomers are much more communicative with their 20-something children than they were with their own parents at that age.

The online survey, "Parents and Kids: Then and Now," finds that 31 percent of today's young adults communicate with their parents more than once a day; only 13 percent of their parents said they were in touch with their own parents daily.

The survey is accompanied by an article, "Are You Too Close to Your Kids?" In it, AARP asks if today's parents are too attached to their adult children, hindering their independence.

Though Bass, 57, admits she felt close to her own mother, the nature of technology has changed parent-child communication.

"When I was in college, I had to stand in line at the pay phone on Sundays, which is when most of the people talk to their parents," said Bass. "That would be our weekly chat."

But sometimes Bass has to stop herself before jumping in to support her daughter financially or make decisions for her, resisting the kind of helicopter parenting for which the boomer generation is notorious.

The survey showed that 60 percent of today's young adults got together with their parents at least once a week; 79 percent said they were comfortable discussing emotional life events; and 81 percent felt comfortable sharing information about their finances.

Both boomer parents (53 percent agreeing) and their children (63 percent) were divided on the statement: "It's better for young adults to live with their parents then to struggle on their own."

"For the last couple of years, we have been bombarded with media reports and all kinds of musings on kids coming back home, and what that means for boomers and the difficulties of young kids getting jobs," said deputy editor Marilyn Milloy about AARP's decision to conduct the survey. "We tried to figure out a new way to look at this."

AARP concludes that millennials are experiencing a new stage of development from their parents' generation -- "emerging adulthood," a term coined by Clark University psychology professor Jeffrey Arnett.

"When I was 18 and went off to college there was absolutely no expectation that I would be coming back home -- you were on your own," said Milloy. "You had some contact with your parents, but you pretty much survived on your own."

"I couldn't get out of the house fast enough," said Milloy. She is now the mother of two college-aged children, who still live at home.

"Jeffrey Arnett suggests we really have given short shrift to what is really happening to kids in that period from 18 to 29 -- it's a period of searching and self-discovery, particularly now in a time so complex, where the job market is dicey," she said. "There are so many options for our kids on a number of fronts, sexual choices and work choices, that they need more guidance than ever."

December's Millennial Jobs Report reveals that youth unemployment is at 11.5 percent, according to Generation Opportunity, an organization that advocates for young adults.

New Parent-Child Closeness Is Positive

Though the survey never specifically addresses the issue of whether parents are too close to their adult children, Milloy said experts interviewed conclude this new connection is positive.

"It's actually nice to be in contact with our kids and have a real adult relationship," she said. "There is some give and take and a level of respect for advice you have. Frankly, one of our experts said that historically, [the rebellious boomers'] separation from [their] parents is a cultural blip."

As for Bass and her daughter Roper, they said they thrive on their bicoastal relationship.

"My mother and I are very lucky, said Roper. "For the most part, she is like my confidante. She loves me unconditionally and doesn't judge me."

"We love basketball and the L.A. Clippers," she said. "They don't broadcast the games in New York, so she texts me throughout the game about what's going on. And we talk on the phone every couple of days."

Morgan Roper said she and her mother strike a good balance. "She is my mom, but I wouldn't say she is my best friend," she said.

Bass said her daughter was financially dependent throughout college, but she continued to support her two years out.

"She wanted to move to New York without a job," said Bass. "We made an agreement: I would foot the bill for three or four months, but she had to make some contribution … Sometimes she would fall short of the mark."

Knowing her daughter was not "starving," Bass said she had to "step away" and cut off some of the financial support. "It was hard for me as a parent."

Dr. Bass said her own parents had paid for her medical school, "except a small loan part."

"But my dad's philosophy was, you take care of yourself," she said. "You have to become financially solvent. He probably would not have agreed for me to go somewhere without a job,"

"I have a conflict," said Bass. "As I watch my [patients'] parents in my profession raising their children, that helicopter scenario is very common. They don't want their children to fail. They create a success for everything … I worry that parents who are well-intentioned are doing it out of love for the right reasons, but sometimes the dependency they create is not good."

Roper said she, too, has friends who are far too dependent on their parents. At a dinner party recently, her friend called her mother "10 times during the cooking process."

"She wanted to know how much salt to put in, and what temperature to cook it at, and when she needed to take it out," said Roper. "Those were all separate phone calls. I have faith in what I can do. I can cook a chicken with the help of the Internet."

But both mother and daughter stress the value and importance of their closeness in matters of the heart.

"Thanksgiving Day my mother passed away," said Bass. "How I wish I could call Mom and ask her how to darken up that turkey."

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