Friday, January 9, 2009

Small Houses Are Healthier for Children and Teens

"In one way or another, the challenges of prosperity
come up in about 40 percent of the cases I see."
Cheryl Rampage, Senior Vice President of The Family Institute as quoted in Privileged, by Penelope Mesic, November 2008 NORTHSHOREMAG.COM

In the Spring 2008 edition of Jewel Box™ Living, I discussed the benefits of small home living as a healthy lifestyle choice. Building and maintaining close relationships with family and friends is widely documented as a critical factor in fostering good physical and mental health throughout life.

Research now finds that small home living is especially good for teens. A recent article in Chicago's NorthShore magazine, focused on the privileged life many teens lead in Chicago's wealthy northern suburbs and the growing number of adolescents who are collapsing under the weight of their advantages. The risk factor for these young people is something that most regard as a benefit - affluence and all the possesions that come with it, particularly the larger house.

Here is an excerpt from this fascinating article:

In fact, the wealthier the child, the more likely to feel estranged. This matters because the best predictor for healthy adjustment is closeness to one's parents, and the reverse is a warning sign for drug and alcohol use, anxiety and depression. And when these problems emerge in high school they may predict a lifelong vulnerability in adulthood.

One way that affluence plays a part, Rampage says, is that "closeness" has a literal component. A less-prosperous family usually shares a smaller space. Parents can see or hear when a child is upset or sad. Children can tell when their parents are worried and have a better sense of their family's problems. The child is more likely to contribute, and the child's contributions are more likely to be valued, which creates a sense of worth and responsibility.

A middle-class family may really need a teenage son or daughter to clean house or to baby-sit and make a meal for younger siblings or to have a job to save money for college. An affluent teen may have no reason to do chores or cook dinner. After all, there are people around who are paid to do those things. Another contributing factor is the affluent teen with his or her own room, bath, TV, computer, telephone and car doesn't have to compromise about who will use the car when, or learn to take turns choosing what's on television, or negotiate about who takes the first shower.

From the parental point of view, to have your child live in a parallel universe may seem entirely positive. Your Audi won't come back from basketball practice with a crumpled rear bumper. You won't spend most of Nova arguing with a 14-year-old who would rather watch Spiderman III. You can read The New York Times "Style" section without having to listen to Radiohead. But even irksome contacts can foster closeness and promote the skills your child needs, including the ability to compromise, negotiate, accommodate others and take care of belongings.

"In a smaller space you witness each other's moods and interests," says Sachs Alter. "You take turns, enjoy each other's company."

The complete article can be found at NORTHSHOREMAG.COM.

The moral to this story? Make children share a bedroom. Its good for them!

Until next time,



  1. An excellent article and some worthy points. Cherrie

  2. Genevieve, great post. In this economy, it's more important than ever that our kids know the value of money and how to conserve.

  3. I found you via Melissa @ The Inspired Room - I appreciate your post on this topic, as my husband & I raised two children in a 3BR, 1bath, 1500 sq ft home {on 3.5 acres in the country}, and they turned out to be unselfish, genuinely caring and interesting young adults. I never related any of this back to our housing situation (just our financial situation) while we were going through life, but I see the results of it now. I will have to check out more of your blog posts.

  4. Hi, I'm also visiting from Melissa's blog. I think my family fell somewhere in between. I do think the article was spot on, however. I had to purposely prevent my girls from having some of the things we could afford, others I should have prevented better. I'm going to forward your post on to younger Mom's I know.

  5. I just came across your blog today. I live in a 1850 sf home and love it. One bathroom, a tiny kitchen and very limited storage aren't always easy but everyone is close. Our oldest is in college and will come home for the summer. I love to think about that someday when our guys are grown up and moved on that my husband and I can stay here. We do a lot of entertaining and there is always room for one more...

  6. Thanks for linking to your blog from Dave's Garden!

    I can certainly see where that's the truth! I've known many over-privileged, estranged kids and parents through they years, and I can see how isolation has just made it worse.

    My husband and I live in an itty-bitty 750-square-foot, 2-br home. We don't have kids, but my mother-in-law lives with us. As a matter of fact, we effectively doubled the living area of our house when we converted the garage and part of the basement into an apartment for her.

    None of us have much space, but we're close and cozy.