Failure to Launch
1.) extreme dependence of grown children on their family and,
2.) high levels of dysfunction in adult children who are not disabled.
Low functioning grown children who are highly dependent on their parents are a growing phenomenon in many parts of the world. In Japan they are called “Hikikomori”, in Italy “Bamboccioni,” in Germany and France “Tanguy Syndrome”, and in England “NEET” (not in employment, education, or training) or “Kippers” (kids in parents pockets eroding retirement savings). In Canada, they are called “Boomerang Children”, in Austria “Mamma”s Hotel Children,” and in South Korea, they are known as “Kangurus.” In the Unites States, we call it the “Full Nest Syndrome” and “ILYA” (incompletely launched young adult). I’ll bet many parents don’t call it anything but, “my life is impossible and I’m going crazy!”
Temporarily living at home and receiving help from one’s parents is not uncommon. It often provides a bit of respite and helps young person to find his way in life. In many cases, however, the transition to fully autonomous functioning does not occur.
The dependent adults who have trouble launching may have certain problems, such as: social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities (or not) that make functioning in the bigger world difficult.
The family and the dependent adult become involved in a back-and-forth interaction where attempts to fix the problem seem to worsen it. An Israeli team has developed a treatment for training parents. They call it ‘nonviolent resistance (NVR) and the techniques have been helpful to parents of behaviorally disturbed youth. Parent training in NVR offers parents a way to shift away from feeling helplessness and toward realistic goals that are accomplishable without the collaboration of their offspring.
Here is the table that the researchers have put together to describe the dependent adult’s behavior and the parent’s corresponding behavior.
|Child’s Dependent Behavior||Parent’s Accommodating Behavior|
|Explicit or implicit demands for money, goods, or services||Supply of money, goods, or services|
|Demand for continuous reassurance||Providing continuous reassurance|
|Aggression and victimization||Submitting to aggression and victimization|
|Blaming||Feeling and expressing guilt|
|Use of parent as a go-between and moderator for communicating with the external world||Providing communicative and other links to external reality|
|Maintaining a paradoxical, “present yet alienated” attitude toward the parents: “I am here all the time but I will reduce contact to a minimum”||Accepting dependent”s presence while avoiding contact|
In the training, parents learn the following skills:
1. Focus on resistance rather than control:
a. Deliver formal announcements that declare your intent to resist unacceptable behaviors;
b. Have meetings where you express your commitment to change and your dissatisfaction with current conditions;
c. Document all violent or aggressive episodes and publicize them to supporters.
2. To avoid escalation:
a. Delay your response to negative behaviors;
b. Avoid trying to dominate, just persevere;
c. Avoid arguments that are like “ping-pong interactions”;
d. Release yourself from the compulsion to retaliate;
e. Development self-control as a sign of strength;
f. Create a network of support
These techniques reduce accommodation, offer a way out of the dependence trap, lessen isolation, and foster productive behavior in your adult child. Also, there are probably many parents who could successfully adapt these techniques to teenage and young adult children who need help becoming autonomous individuals. In my experience, when both parents can agree on which of these techniques to use, and present a strong, not angry united front, they have a better chance. On Friday,June 12, I’ll outline the factors that have contributed to this phenomena.
Source: Eli Liebowitz et al Family Process, M
Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D.