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3. Shared living arrangements

 

Our ‘Under the same roof‘ project on sharing a house with people who aren’t family goes behind the front door to explore relationships between sharers

Living with non-family members in shared accommodation has become a common experience for young people in transition to adulthood in the UK. The first UK study of young people’s shared living arrangements was conducted in the late 1990s by Sue Heath and Liz Cleaver, developing out of a broader programme of research work at Manchester on young people’s living arrangements. Heath and Cleaver argued that greater significance should be attached to the nature of the relationships experienced within shared domestic settings, not least because the quality of such relationships had a fundamental impact on young people’s ability to feel that they were ‘at home’. The degree to which housemates had shared rituals or how they used shared domestic space, for example, played a part in whether they experienced their shared living arrangement as a tenuously connected ‘stranger households’ at one extreme, rarely experienced as ‘homely’, or as a households marked by a strong sense of friendship-based collective group identity at the other, not dissimilar to the ‘quasi-communes’ of earlier literature on intentional communities.

Current research at the Morgan Centre, again led by Sue Heath, is now exploring these issues across a much more diverse range of shared living arrangements, including both ‘intentional’ and less intentional housing contexts, and with a focus on experiences of sharing across the lifecourse, not just amongst younger people. As recently completed doctoral research by Josh Richards also shows, shared living arrangements not only allow us to explore forms of connectedness involving non-kin, but also cast light on widespread assumptions about domestic sociality within kin-based households, as well as contributing to broader understandings of the nature of ‘sharing’ and the possibilities and limits of cooperation.

 

 

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