Inside teenage bedrooms A cross-generational study of the teenage bedroom and its material culture
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It has been suggested (Zeiher & Zeiher, 1991; Gillis, 2008) that contemporary Western childhood has become increasingly ‘islanded’ – lived out in the specialized spaces dedicated to children that are conceived both for the safe containment of the young and the protection of an adult ideal of what childhood should be. What then should we make of the contemporary teenage bedroom – a space dedicated to the transition between childhood and adulthood within the family home? Whose construction is it? Does it, similarly, support an adult ideal of teenage life? How does it relate, conceptually and in practice, to the home that surrounds it? What negotiations take place around it? And in what way does it facilitate navigation from the islands of childhood to the mainland of adulthood? This research explores the meaning and significance of the teenage bedroom in the context of the wider home. A cross-generational, qualitative study, it comprised interviews with 26 teenagers and their parents, living in East and North London. A ‘library’ of photographic images compiled for each room – in collaboration with the Geffrye Museum of the Home – formed the initial basis of conversations with teenagers, inspiring a close engagement with the room’s material culture and its day-to-day practices. In the recollections of parents, the bedrooms they had occupied themselves as teenagers, between the late 1970s and the early 1990s, flickered into view, facilitating reflection on similarities and differences between the home-lives of their own teenage children and themselves, and bringing an extended temporal dimension to the research. Both the teenagers and their parents explored family negotiations around the room and its construction. Drawing on their accounts and insights, the study considers what these teenage rooms tell us about home, family and teenage life.
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