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1This book presents an analysis of the phenomenon of young adults moving back in with their parents, which has intensified with the health and social crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first lockdown in France, which began on 17 March 2020, approximately 33% of young people aged 18–24 (vs. 7% of the French population as a whole) left their residence, most of them to live with a family member. [1] But this phenomenon is not new. According to data from the Housing survey, the number of young people in France who moved back in with their parents each year increased from 282,000 in 2002 to 338,000 in 2013 (p. 17). This change seems to have resulted from several structural phenomena: the contemporary transformations of youth and the associated temporal norms, increasing labour precarity, and tight housing markets.

2The author’s analysis of this phenomenon situates itself within a sociology of the family that is attentive to processes of individualization [2] and autonomization [3] among young people. It is based mainly on a qualitative survey using semi-structured interviews (n = 56) carried out by students in the degree programme for careers in the social services sector, in which Gaviria teaches. While this method offers many advantages (low cost, the possibility of detailed event history analyses, etc.), it also has some drawbacks. One issue is the credibility of the reported statements, which were never checked against either situations observed by the interviewer or the points of view of other actors, including the interviewees’ parents. Furthermore, while this method necessarily produces uncontrolled sampling biases, the social characteristics of the surveyed population are not systematically presented or compared with those of this age group as a whole. This would have allowed the author to better situate the respondents, and facilitated the generalization of the results.

3The book is divided into two sections, the first with two chapters, the second with three. The first section analyses the material factors behind, and consequences of, the move back into the parental home. The second analyses the underlying ‘affective grounds’ (p. 127). This division raises important questions from the outset. There is no doubt that sociology must study what seem prima facie to be psychological objects, notably affects. But to separate these from the social and material conditions that shape them, as the author does here, is to run the risk of psychologizing social phenomena. The author yields to this temptation at a number of points. The first chapter focuses on one type of situation, characterized by its function (‘securing one’s career’). These young people move back in with their parents after completing some higher education or following a break in their career trajectory. This gives these young people the opportunity to seek employment and avoid housing vulnerability, but it undermines aspirations to independence and threatens subjective social mobility. The second chapter focuses on more strategically driven situations, where young people move back in with their parents to pursue longer-term aspirations, such as access to homeownership through savings on housing costs. Young people in this situation are most often employed, and ‘rather than leading to an interruption in their trajectory, their return to the parental home is planned and scheduled’ (p. 115). At the end of this first section, the author offers an initial analysis. Exploring the family’s central role in the process of access to adulthood, she highlights the different forms this can take depending on social and material conditions.

4The second part of the book sets out to analyse the ‘affective’ dimension of the experience of moving back in with parents, and more particularly how it allows for ‘self-reconstruction’ (p. 127) in different ways for men (Chapter 3) and women (Chapter 4). Like working-class young men in France generally, [4] young men in this situation tend to have low levels of formal education, are very often the sons of low-level employees and/or manual workers, and face major problems with employment, housing, or marriage. Despite conflicts with parents and modest family resources, moving back home can be the only way to check a trajectory of decline and sometimes even to avoid becoming homeless. Gaviria analyses this phenomenon in part as the consequence of the ‘rise of uncertainties’ [5] that more often affect the poorest layers of the working classes. But she also presents it as the result of skills ‘poorly learned, such as how to be alone, how to manage money, time, free time’. Moving back in with parents, she argues, affords these young men the possibility of ‘reconstruction through education’ (p. 152). Young women in this situation, who also face difficulties with employment and housing, more often move back in with family due to separation from a partner, driven by a desire to flee physical and psychological violence. Gaviria analyses their return to the parental home as ‘self-reconstruction work’ (pp. 183–184) that allows these women to heal the wounds left by intimate-partner violence. The final chapter looks at young people from more advantaged backgrounds, who move back home in less constraining circumstances, following less painful/violent separation experiences and/or to pursue education in a different area. Here again, Gaviria frames these returns to the parental home as in part due to ‘difficulty living alone’ and explains that moving back allows these young people to enjoy ‘family support and to find themselves again (se retrouver)’ (p. 202).

5In the Conclusion, she argues that the expansion of this phenomenon reflects a more general transformation of ‘models of transition to adulthood’ and in particular of the ‘working-class model’ (p. 208). Between the massification of education and the growing precarity of low-skilled employment, working-class youth seem to be more directly affected by these transformations than those from more advantaged backgrounds. And yet moving back to the parental home does not represent an irreversible failure or a sharp break in a social trajectory, but a phase of recourse to family solidarity, both material and emotional. Garivia emphasizes the extreme variability of the situations, which form a continuum from absolute material necessity (fulfilling basic needs for food and shelter) to strategies of access to homeownership or improving employment prospects. The structural causes of the phenomenon are, of course, mentioned—labour market precarity, tight housing markets, the conversion of the working classes to the imperative of formal education. [6] But the author also evokes factors linked to ‘the individual’s self-construction’ (p. 210) and notably ‘failure to acquire skills for independent living’ (p. 219): ‘not all of the problems encountered in becoming an adult are due to economic issues. Some are also linked to individual personality and to the difficulties of progressing through the different phases of life’ (p. 211). This dissociation of these different explanatory registers seems surprising, insofar as—in my view—the analysis of affects and individual singularities is inseparable from that of the social conditions which produce them. To disregard this relationship is to run the risk of psychologizing social phenomena. These ‘personality traits’ and ‘learning difficulties’ result more from the negative effects of insufficient acculturation [7] to a socially marked model of student youth, [8] a model that, given their limited economic resources and their formative experiences in the cultural worlds of the working classes, these young people struggle to adopt.


  • [1]
    Lambert et al., 2020, Logement, travail, voisinage et conditions de vie: ce que le confinement a changé pour les Français, Coconel note de synthèse, no. 10, vague 6.
  • [2]
    See notably Martuccelli D., de Singly F., Les Sociologies de l’individu, 2012, Paris, Armand Colin.
  • [3]
    See notably Galland O., 1991, Sociologie de la jeunesse, Paris, Armand Colin; Van de Velde C., 2008, Devenir adulte: sociologie comparée de la jeunesse en Europe, Paris, PUF.
  • [4]
    Beaud S., Mauger G. (eds.), 2017, Une génération sacrifiée? Jeunes des classes populaires dans la France désindustrialisée, Paris, Rue d’Ulm.
  • [5]
    Castel R., 2013, La montée des incertitudes: travail, protections, statut de l’individu, Paris, Points.
  • [6]
    Poullaouec T., 2010, Le diplôme, arme des faibles. Les familles ouvrières et l’école, Paris, La Dispute.
  • [7]
    Beaud S., 2002, ‘80% au bac’… et après? Les enfants de la démocratisation scolaire, Paris, La Découverte.
  • [8]
    Chamboredon J.-C., 1991, Classes scolaires, classes d’âge, classes sociales: les fonctions de scansion temporelle du système de formation, Enquête, 6.
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