The Repertoires of Relatedness: Understanding the Parent-Child Relationships of Young Adults Who Live at Home
Increasingly, Canadian young adults delay their moves from the family home or return to live with parents after a period away. Though research has identified some of the economic, developmental, cultural, and interpersonal factors related to this practice, virtually no researchers have interpreted the meanings and experiences of parent adult-child relationships in this context. The aim of this qualitative research was to examine how young adults living at home experience and construct their parent-child relationships. Data was collected through semi-structured and life history interviews with 15 Canadian young adults (ages 23 to 33). Drawing on phenomenological and hermeneutic traditions, meanings of experience were reconstructed by relating part-whole relationships at several levels: between textual segments and broader categories and themes; between individual participants and the sample as a whole; between the data and concepts borrowed from moral anthropology, moral philosophy, and cultural psychology; and between the current findings and the state of knowledge on coresidence. Findings describe how participants experience and construct their relationships to their parents through diverse “styles of relatedness”: caregiving and receiving, the transmission and reception of authority, tyranny and subjection, collective negotiation, caregiving within the family system, common household civility, and companionate friendship. Participants’ experiences within and across these styles of relatedness clustered into three worlds of the family: 1) A balanced and robust family world, 2) An imbalanced and delicate family world, and 3) A frozen family world. These worlds varied by their incorporation of diverse styles of relatedness, their depths of mutual understanding, and their balance of joint involvement (according to the young adults). Based on these findings, I draw four conclusions. First, I claim that coresiders’ experiences of the parent-child bond cannot be adequately represented by a single world of experience. Second, I argue that an eclectic repertoire of styles of relatedness supports young adults’ meaningful belonging in the parental home, fulfilling multiple functions that complement, supplement, and counterbalance one another. Third, I claim that to live a good life with their parents, coresident young adults require not only the abstract knowledge of styles of relatedness, but also the competence to discern when, where, and how these styles ought to be performed. Fourth, I show that young adults constitute themselves as capable persons by cultivating and performing a repertoire of styles of relatedness – ideally undertaking this work alongside their parents in a joint project of moral becoming (Mattingly, 2014; Ricoeur, 1990/1992).
coresidence, living at home, living with parents, parent-child relationships, transition to adulthood, young adult, intergenerational relationships, parental support, morality, ethics, qualitative
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)