Why Many Young Adults Fail to Launch Into Adulthood – And What Parents Can Do to Help

Dec 7 / Michelle Arseneault
When young adults don't take the next step to adulthood, it's called failure to launch. This can look different for everyone, but there are some common reasons why this happens.

In this article, we will discuss what failure to launch is, and why it happens. We will also give parents some tips on how they can help their children transition into independent adulthood.
Empty space, drag to resize

What does "failure to launch" mean?

Failure to launch occurs when young adults don't take the next step to adulthood. This can look different for everyone, but some common signs to look for that might indicate your adult child needs some help to move forward are:
  • Living at home for extended periods of time
  • Refusing to take on adult responsibilities
  • Displaying symptoms of arrested development
  • Exhibiting problem behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse
  • Refusing to discuss their plans for the future, or getting upset when the subject comes up
Empty space, drag to resize

Living at home for extended periods of time

Many young adults find themselves living at home for extended periods after they graduate from high school or college. This can be in part because they can't find a job that pays enough to support themselves, or they may be struggling to pay off student loans. However, some young adults live at home because they're unwilling or unsure of how to take on adult responsibilities, such as paying bills and contributing to household expenses.
Empty space, drag to resize
Get your first job course card
Enroll your teenager or young adult child in our Get your first job course.
Empty space, drag to resize

Refusing to take on adult responsibilities

In addition to living at home, another sign that your young adult might be failing to launch is if they're refusing to take on adult responsibilities. This can include things like getting a job, paying bills, and taking care of themselves independently. Often, these young adults will display symptoms of arrested development, meaning they're not acting like adults even though they're technically adults.

Arrested development, in this case, might mean that your young adult child is still relying on you for things like financial support, rides to appointments, or help with everyday tasks like laundry and grocery shopping. This is common behavior for people who are on the ASD Spectrum, deal with ADD or ADHD, have mental disorders, or have simply never had to live with consequences or expectations.
Empty space, drag to resize

Displaying symptoms of arrested development

Symptoms of arrested development can include things like staying in school past the age when most people have graduated, having difficulty keeping a job, and still relying on their parents for financial support. These young adults may also exhibit problem behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse. If your child is engaging in any of these behaviors, it's important to get them help before their situation becomes worse.
Empty space, drag to resize

Refusing to discuss their plans for the future

Another sign that your child might be struggling to launch into adulthood is if they refuse to discuss their plans for the future with you. This can be frustrating for parents, who want to do everything they can to help their children succeed. If your child gets upset or defensive when you try to talk about their future with them, it might be a sign that they're not ready yet.
Empty space, drag to resize
Communicate with respect and understanding course card
Sign your family up for our Communicate with respect and understanding course.

You'll make a communication agreement to keep each other "in the know" while your young adult child works toward independence, without fighting.
Empty space, drag to resize

Why does failure to launch happen?

There are many reasons why failure to launch occurs. Some young adults may not have the skills or motivation to live independently. Others may not have the financial resources to do so. And some may simply not be ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Whatever the reason, failure to launch can have negative consequences for both young adults and their parents.
Empty space, drag to resize

What are the consequences of failure to launch?

For young adults, failure to launch can mean living in their parents' homes well into their 30s, being unemployed or underemployed, and having difficulty forming relationships. It can also lead to problem behaviors, such as substance abuse.

For parents, failure to launch can be stressful and frustrating. It can lead to conflict within the family and cause financial strain. And it can leave parents feeling like they have no choice but to enable their adult children.
Empty space, drag to resize
Parents speaking sternly with a young adult

How can parents help their adult children who are failing to launch?

There are many things that parents can do to help their children. First, it is important to talk to your child and try to understand the root of the problem. If there are issues with mental health or addiction, seek professional help.

If you think your child might be struggling to launch into adulthood, there are steps you can take to help them transition into independent adulthood. Here are a few tips:
  • Talk to them about their plans for the future. As I mentioned earlier, one way to tell if your child is struggling is if they refuse to talk about their plans for the future. Try talking with them about what they want to do and see if they have any ideas about what they want their next step in life to be. If they don't have any answers, help them come up with some possibilities. If they are unwilling to talk to you about it, a life coach is a great option.

  • Encourage them to take on adult responsibilities. One way you can help your child transition into adulthood is by encouraging them to take on adult responsibilities. This can include things like getting a job, paying bills, and taking care of themselves independently.

    Helping them to understand that they need to start taking on these responsibilities will go a long way in helping them transition into adulthood. If you need help teaching them the life skills they need, check out our life skill courses for teens.

  • Stop enabling their ability to refuse to take on adult responsibilities. This means that you need to stop doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves. For example, if they're old enough to get a job, don't keep giving them money. If they're not paying their bills, don't pay for them. This will help them to understand that they need to start taking responsibility for their own lives.

  • Get them help if they're struggling. If your child is struggling with any of the symptoms we mentioned earlier, such as drug or alcohol abuse, it's important to get them help. There are many resources available to help young adults who are struggling, so don't hesitate to reach out for help.
Hey parents

Is your teen or young adult failing to launch?

Explore strategies and resources to help your teen prepare to move out on their own.