The Parent Trap: Familial Nurturance and the Failure to Launch Phenomenon


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13 Apr 2021
9:00 AM -11:00 AM


Online via Zoom


This interactive case-based workshop is designed to help clinicians examine the role of the parent-young adult relationship in the development or maintenance of the problem, and provides guidance on the inclusion of parents in therapy - or therapy provided exclusively to the parents who find themselves in this situation.

Alarms have increasingly sounded within the mental health professions about the number of young adults seemingly becalmed in the transition from dependent adolescence to independent adulthood.

Though research is severely limited, the causal factors appear to be diverse, and it seems that none is sufficient to produce the difficulty on its own. Personality, economic, and cultural influences have all been implicated, as has the appearance of the Internet and the amount of time young adults typically spend online.

One factor that appears to be very nearly essential, however, is familial support, without which the dependent life is simply not tenable. Parents or other caregivers must step in to provide finances, support, or accommodation - yet parents are often the individuals most distressed by the lack of progress in their young adult's life.

So-called "failure to launch" is a dance requiring the participation of more than one party. Typically with benevolent intent, parents often provide nurturance in a manner that undermines independence rather than facilitating it. The result is a decision-making process on the part of the young adult that degrades the attractiveness of adulthood and enhances the appeal of retaining the perks of childhood..

Therapy can profitably examine this process, including the incentives for inaction, the hidden appeal of remaining an active caregiver, fears of abandonment, and how financial subsidies might be reweighted to favour progress rather than stagnation.

Learning Objectives:

  1. To reconceptualize "failure to launch" as an interactional difficulty rather than an individual one.
  2. To assess the degree to which frustrated caregiver may inadvertently promote stasis rather than progress.
  3. To appreciate the effects of a battle for control in these households.
  4. To help parents shift from a parent/child to an adult-adult relationship.

Participants will also receive several handouts that can be used when working with parents in this situation.

About the Presenter:

Dr Randy Paterson ( is a Vancouver-based psychologist, the founder of Changeways Clinic, and author of five books (including How to be Miserable, How to be Miserable in Your Twenties, The Assertiveness Workbook, and Private Practice Made Simple).

He has conducted over 200 therapist training workshops across Canada, as well as in New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong. He provides online Continuing Education courses through the site, vlogs on YouTube at the "How to be Miserable" channel, and operates an orchard in the BC interior.

He has published in the areas of stress, anxiety disorders, attentional processing, perfectionism, attachment theory, and diversity training.

He has a special interest in young adults marooned at the gap between adolescent dependence and adult self-direction - the so-called "failure to launch" or hikikomori phenomenon.


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