Bitter homes and gardens: The meanings of home to families of divorce

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This article examines parents' and children's perceptions of their housing environments before and after a separation or divorce, as well as the role that the home itself may play in the marriage. Two phases of research were conducted. The first, exploratory research conducted at the Center for the Family in Transition in Corte Madera, California, formed the basis for the second, a study of 58 individuals in two support organizations for children and parents of divorce in St. Louis, Missouri. Survey and interview findings revealed that while the home is rarely the direct cause of divorce, it often exacerbates pre-existing problems in the marriage. Following the divorce, some parents and children still have a strong emotional attachment to the home they inhabited while the marriage was intact. Moving out of this home can take a serious toll on many family members. For some, losing the home can cause severe grief resembling the loss of a loved one. Respondents' perceptions about their post-divorce housing arrangements also are discussed. In sum, the physical housing environment, typically viewed as a mere backdrop to everyday life, may well merit center stage. Based upon these findings, the author offers some theoretical perspectives on understanding the meanings of the broken home, as well as some practical applications for planning, designing, and managing housing to better meet the needs of families of divorce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Architectural and Planning Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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