Friday, August 31, 2018

Frustration-Aggression Over Adult Children Living With Parents

One story about an aggressive act that caught my attention is a human-interest about a New York couple who sued their thirty-year-old son to evict him from their house. Every major media outlet reported this story last week, but I first heard about it from a local radio DJ. After doing a little bit of digging I found out that Mark and Christina Rotondo, who live in Camillus, New York, filed suit against their son, Michael Rotondo, in Onondaga County court, which eventually went to the state supreme court, for failing to comply with several eviction notices (Hahn, 2018). Michael's parents served him the first eviction notice on the 2nd of February, giving him only two weeks to vacate their home (Hahn, 2018). However, Michael believed this was too short of notice, so he kept asking for more time. After asking him to leave for a month, his parents finally threatened legal action if he did not leave by March 15th (Hahn, 2018). To create an even greater incentive, his parents offered him $1,100 to help him find employment and a place to live (Hahn, 2018). However, this did not seem to deter Michael, who is self-employed but does not make enough to leave the house. To further complicate matters, New York state law does not allow property owners to evict family members; instead they must go through an ejectment proceeding to kick him out (Hahn, 2018). This is what led to the current court case. Acting pro se, Michael tried to get the case thrown out arguing that his parents are legally required to give him six months to leave (Hahn, 2018). Despite his best efforts, state Supreme Court judge Donald Greenwood ruled that Michael would have to leave his parents' house (Hahn, 2018).

It is not clear who the aggressor is in this situation. On the one hand, the parents' act of suing their own son could be construed as an aggressive act since their normal role is that of nurturing. However, the son's refusal to leave their house could also be trespassing, which is an aggressive act. Since his parents are the sole owners of that house they are the only ones that have a right to be there. Regardless of who you think is the primary aggressor here, their aggression seems to fit the mold of the frustration-aggression hypothesis. Simply put, the frustration-aggression hypothesis assumes that frustration always leads to some form of aggression and aggression always stems from frustration e.g. not getting what we wanted (Baron and Branscombe, 2017). According to Baron and Branscombe, this hypothesis places to much significance on frustration as the sole cause of aggression (2017). However, as suspect as its premise may be, it seems to be true in this case. In this case, the parents' frustration seems to stem from their expectation that their son would eventually find a job and move out again or at least contribute to paying expenses and doing household chores while staying there. To be certain, Michael did move out at an earlier point in his life and even had a wife and son; however, after losing two jobs back to back, he moved back in with his parents at age twenty-two and has stayed there for the past eight years. I believe Michael's frustration stems from the fact that he is being kicked out earlier than when he expects to be able to find a new place. According to the official report, Michael wanted six months to move, which includes not only packing up his stuff and finding a new place, but also finding a job that pays well enough to support himself (Hahn, 2018). However, his parents want him out immediately. The mutual frustration stems from their inability to compromise.


It could reasonably be argued that some of the parents' frustration stems from social norms unique to our hyper-individualistic culture. In other parts of the world, especially in developing countries, it is normal for adult children to live with their parents and for multiple generations to share the same household. A study of the living arrangements of older adults in 43 developing countries found that most of them live in a large household with their adult children, who often tend to be male (Bongaarts and Zimmer, 2002). Across all 43-developing nations, fifty-three percent of men and fifty-six percent of women live with at least one adult child (Bongaarts and Zimmer, 2002). Across Asian countries this number jumps to about sixty-six percent for men and sixty-eight percent for women (Bongaarts and Zimmer, 2002). For instance, in Pakistan eighty percent of elderly men share a household with an adult child (Bongaarts and Zimmer, 2002). Cohabitation with adult children seems to stem from financial and economic reasons. In the absence of a state safety net to take care of the elderly and poor women, people rely on their family structure to help them meet their basic needs, as they have done for most of human history.

Adult children living with their parents is becoming increasingly common in our day and age. According to Pew Research, fifteen percent of adults between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five years of age live with their parents; a five percent increase over the previous generation (Fry, 2017). The percentage of millennials living with their parents is almost double the percentage of adults who lived with their parents, at the same age, in the baby boomer generation (Fry, 2017). One preventive measure that could be taken to keep adult children from having to live with their parents, the cause of frustration in this case, is to make service in some branch of the military or work in the Peace Corps mandatory for adults between 18 and 21 years of age. This would help people who are otherwise directionless find careers that would let them live independently of their parents and help others get through college without racking up crippling student loan debt. This would not require the use of state violence (e.g. threat of incarceration) to implement. Mandatory service could be enforced through certain financial incentives or the loss of certain civil rights such as the right to vote or the right to run for public office.


References

Branscombe, N., & Baron, R. (2016). Social psychology. Boston, MA: Pearson Publishing. ISBN-13: 9780134410968

Bongaarts, J., & Zimmer, Z. (2002). Living Arrangements of Older Adults in the Developing World: An Analysis of Demographic and Health Survey Household Surveys. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57(3). doi:10.1093/geronb/57.3.s145

Fry, R. (2017, May 05). It's becoming more common for young adults to live at home – and for longer stretches. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/05/its-becoming-more-common-for-young-adults-to-live-at-home-and-for-longer-stretches/

Hahn, J. D. (2018, May 22). Parents successfully sue to get their 30-year-old son to move out. Retrieved from https://people.com/human-interest/parents-sue-30-year-old-son-to-move-out/