Scratch someone who doesn't have children and they'll probably tell you: Too much. That would be in answer to the question: Do parents do more than they should for their adult children. I had a single co-worker who dubbed my husband "Daddy Indulgence" for such "crimes" as paying for our children's college tuition. (We had saved up for it for years.)
My co-worker's teasing was good-natured. (She hoped our kids appreciated the gift.) But still, the "daddy indulgence" trope persists as a reflex reaction. There's a reason for its apparent growth recently: Although our children's march toward financial independence moves forward, it's doing so at a slower pace than our generation's.
According to a Pew 2019 survey, financial independence is
"one of the many markers used to designate the crossover from childhood into young adulthood, and it’s a milestone most Americans (64%) think young adults should reach by the time they are 22 years old....But that’s not the reality for most young adults who’ve reached this age.
The reality is: In 1980, roughly one-third of young adults were financially independent by the time they hit age 22; in 2018, that was down to one-fourth. When Pew looked more broadly at young adults ages 18 to 29, though, the survey found financial independence has been largely stable in recent decades, with women closing a gender gap.
There are other markers that suggest our adult children are less independent than we were. Here's Pew again. (This was based on a 2019 survey in those halcyon pre-pandemic days; Covid-19 has likely skewed a lot of the numbers and not in a positive direction):
Today’s young adults are staying in school longer and are marrying and establishing their own households later than previous generations. A growing share are living in their parents’ homes well into their 20s and even early 30s. (See this Parenting Grown Children post.) Some of these changes are linked to economic challenges, while others may represent a realignment of goals and priorities.
As to the indulgence side of the equation, the Pew survey found we were helping out our kids with the basics-- groceries and housing--plus tuition.
Aside from the question of whether these 'indulgences" augur good or ill for our adult children, where does the finger of blame point? Pew is quite unequivocal: The majority of the public says, as my co-worker teased, parents do too much for their young-adult children and most parents of adult children disagree.
How do our kids feel about the aid and assistance? Pew asked that question as well. Turns out we're in sync with our kids on this one:
Young adults themselves are largely satisfied with what their parents are doing for them. A majority (65%) say their parents do about the right amount for them – similar to the share of parents of young adults who say they do about the right amount for their kids.