Failure to Launch and Substance Abuse


failure to launch 

Young adults are having a harder time moving out their childhood homes and are continuing to live with their parents well after high school and college. Now the average age to move out is 27! In fact, out of the 10 million millennials in the U.S., about 32% live with their parents. This phenomenon is called Failure to Launch.


So why is Failure to Launch a big deal you might ask?


Besides a negative shift in the economy such as educational debt, low homeowner ship and rent, low wages, etc., there can also be negative emotional affects on the young adult and the family. Negative emotional affects that affect the millennial include, lack of self efficacy, shame, anxiety, boredom, and lack of motivation. Additionally, having a young adult remaining in the parent’s home can cause dysfunction and stress for the rest of the family system. This isn’t to say that anyone between the ages of 18 and 34 should never live or move back in with their parents. In fact, sometimes it is necessary to move back home. But is important to be aware of the multi layered effects this phenomenon has on the economy, families and inviduals.


Why do people fail to launch into the “real” world?


There are many reasons this phenomenon has taken place. However, it began with the recession. The recession hit which led to higher unemployment rates and tighter credit markets. It was tougher to qualify for a mortgage and millennials instead began to go back to school to receive a higher education. Higher education led to increased school debt, lower wage jobs, higher cost of living, and thus an overall difficulty leaving the nest. Failure to launch can also be enabled by parents by continuing to treat their adults like children which can continue the cycle of this phenomenon.


How is failure to launch connected to substance abuse?


Some argue that continuing to live with your parents well after high school calls for an extension of adolescence. This stage of life typically leads to more boredom and a curiosity to try new things such as substances and alcohol. The increased availability of substances, particularly opiods, leaves these young adults more at risk for developing substance abuse issues.

What can be done?

It’s important to keep the main focus on the young adult and the secondary focus on the family since it is a systemic problem. Education and an understanding of the issues within a family system are crucial as well.

Substance abuse treatment centers, schools and families should emphasize the goals, ambitions and dreams of the young adults. Welcoming these ideas into treatment and daily living can help motivate the individual to find purpose and develop healthy life style choices.

substance abuse



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