During its lifetime, a family typically goes through a number of developmental changes. These developmental changes are the transitions that a family would move through over time. For instance, if a couple decides that they want to become parents, then this family experiences a transition from a point where the family unit was made up by the couple, to a point where the same family unit now includes the parenting of children. Another example could be a couple going through changes during the phase where the person or persons who were employed, have now retired from their employment.

Different families experience different transitions. This means that not every family goes through the same developmental changes. These changes depend on the choices that family members make, the goals of the family, and other experiences which impact a family such as illness, disability, adoption, and separation, amongst others.

A number of families go through a major developmental change when their adult children move out of the parental home. In this blog, which will be divided into two parts, I will be discussing the changes experienced during this stage, and also share some suggestions which would support in adjusting to these changes. Walsh (2003) describes this stage as one that brings with it the greatest number of shifts in the family. This is because in this stage, when the adult children would leave the parental home, they would possibly meet their own partners and start their own families. Thus, in such a situation, the family would experience a number of entrances of new family members within the family unit. This also means that the family members would move up on stage in the generational levels, where, for instance, the parents would also acquire an added role of grandparents.

As with other developmental changes, many families experience stress when the adult children leave the parental home. This is because families would be adjusting to a new context, while developing new routines in family life and redefining roles and relationships within the family. While a family may have been used to specific family roles during the past years while the children still lived at the parental home, now some elements of these family roles might need to be revisited to better suit the context of where the family is at in this point in time. For instance, if parents and their children are used to showing interest in each other through sitting round the table after work and talking about their day, then the family members might need to explore new ways and means of showing interest in each other now that the adult children have their own homes to go to after work. Some families, for instance, opt to giving each other a phone call, or maybe agree on a day of the week when they can have lunch or dinner together.


Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships. She can be contacted on rebecca@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.