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Do the kind of houses we grow up in shape our personalities?

The idea of individual rooms for children is a later day concept. Greater prosperity, bigger houses and of course the influence of other cultures on us has made individual rooms for children a possibility. In the earlier days except for married couples, no one had individual rooms and at times even married couples did not have their own place in many households.

Does the kind of house we grew up in shape us too? In a house, if all spaces are common spaces, each of us is visible to others all the time. Everyone knows what you are doing at any given time. Your moods are also on display to everyone. So do we grow up taking others into consideration a lot? Do we begin to value what other people think, talk about us? Are we also more expressive? If you are emotional there is no place to go and hide to deal with your emotion. You need to deal with it in front of everyone. There are no hiding places.

You lived with everyone, ate with everyone, played with everyone, slept with everyone in the same shared space. Everything had to be shared with others including your emotions. There was no individual ownership of places or other material for children. Human behaviour when others are watching is vastly different from when they are alone. Mine and yours are not defined easily. Your value is as a part of a group - your family.

Today in many houses each child has a room of its own. A child can study, play, eat, sleep in its own space. If a child is crying or throwing a tantrum, the parents can banish the child to his/her room. The child will have to deal with it on its own. “If you want to cry/sulk go to your room”. There is a place to hide when you are emotional. An individual’s territory becomes defined. You can keep YOUR room the way you want. Others including the parents have to take permission to enter your room. The individual has become a unit. Your toys, books and other material stuff are yours and your siblings are theirs. Yours and mine are clearly defined. The identity of a person as an individual has taken root.

If many of us struggle to define our boundaries, separate our needs from others’ around us, could the kind of house we grew up play a part in it?

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