Julie Ponzi has an interesting take, as do several of the commenters. I, however, really, really think much of this is simply the logical outcome of the "Greatest Generation's" actions in the 40's and 50's.
They came home from WW II and started families. They wanted to give their kids what they didn't have during the Depression - so they worked, hard. They defined the commuter. They scrimped and saved to get a little house on a postage stamp sized lot. Their kids had next-door neighbors' kids to play with. Moms stayed home, and whalloped all the kids in the neighborhood willy-nilly when they misbehaved.
Korea, and more vets came home to start families, and worked to prevent their kids from having to go to war.
So, 15 years later, when Viet Nam came along, the kids didn't want to go to war. After all, their parents didn't want them to, and supported the cowardly running to Canada. The national "will to win" wasn't there, and we essentially "lost."
It's been downhill from there. Boys are supposed to act like girls, sit quietly in class and learn, obey the teacher just because the teacher says do something. All the PE was taken out of schools, so the energy boys have isn't exercised.
At the same time, we lost the war on poverty - more people are "sucking the tit" of Govt giveaways and have no desire to earn a living than ever before. Kids had babies when they just weren't ready for the responsibility. They have had babies to "get out of Mama's house" and get their own (govt subsidized) apartment. They are paid more welfare and given more food stamps when they have more kids. If they marry, they lose their subsidies, so why marry? If they work, they lose all their medicaid benefits, their subsidized housing, their food stamps and their welfare payments, so why work?
Again, at the same time, we decided only parents should discipline children, and they were no longer permitted to spank. Discipline left the schools - parents didn't support the schools' attempts to impose discipline. With no limits, children become sulky and defiant. They *want* limits, they *crave* limits. Without limits they become seekers of limits. Gangs provide limits the schools don't. If you get out of line, you will be beaten or killed. But the limits are known, and the consequences of crossing the lines are known and are imposed - quickly.
Now, the middle class has discovered that they don't have to work. "Guilt-ridden" parents will give them the handouts the Govt gives the impoverished. So why leave home? Why try to find a job? Why bother starting a business?
Obviously, there are many more reasons for the failure to launch, but I see a connecting thread.
Should we "return to the 50's?" Probably not. But certain aspects of the 50's are needed now. Structure, limits, discipline, and support of others imposing the structure, limits and discipline in parental absence are needed. Taking an interest in your kids - 0r don't have them - is needed.
Abortion? That's a cop-out. If you are going to have sex, you take responsibility for yourself and use birth control. And if the BC doesn't work, you accept the consequences, have the baby, and give it up for adoption. Don't like those choices? Don't have sex. Period. Abstinence only failed once . . .
We need to encourage people to weigh the risks of their behavior and to accept the consequences of their choices.
If you choose to not work - you don't eat.
Have we had a "boomerang kid?" Yes. But he *paid* rent and did chores around the house for room and board. He fed cats, scooped litter, cleaned bathrooms, washed dishes, vacuumed etc. He also left as soon as he could! Had he balked, he would have been out on his own before he could turn around twice.
Failure to launch is a failure not only of parents, but our society.