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“Failure to launch” is a term that refers to young adults who remain in the home of their parents or caregivers, for a longer period of time than what is traditionally expected. There are many reasons young adults struggle to gain or maintain independence.
Unfortunately, youth experiencing failure to launch are often misunderstood, even by loved ones and friends. What may seem like simple lack of motivation and unwillingness to take steps toward independence is usually something much more deeply rooted and difficult to conquer.
How Failure to Launch Starts and How it Presents
As with any situation involving human behavior, there is no singular presentation for failure to launch. Some young adults may have attempted to go to college but found that the pressures of school were overwhelming, while others may have become derailed by mental health or substance abuse. Many people in this situation have completed college and returned home, only to find it difficult to maintain a job or budget for rent and other expenses. There are also young adults who never left home after high school ended, paralyzed by fear about going out on their own or underemployed and not feeling capable of self-sufficiency.
Young adults in this type of situation may present in a variety of ways. They may seem withdrawn or sullen, irritable, or lacking self-confidence, or conversely, it may seem as though they are ok and not experiencing any emotional distress, but simply can not take forward steps toward their future. Whether they are an open book or fairly guarded about their emotions, it is likely that the young adult who remains at home is experiencing underlying complicated feelings about it. Many people in situations like this feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed about living at home, even if they do not regularly share that sentiment. Defensiveness and reluctance to talk about the situation is another common trait in young adults who are living in the family home for an extended period of time.
Talley Webb, MA, CRMC