This thesis investigated the experience of the home. A convergent methodology was employed to examine a range of psychological representations of the home environment. The role of sex, gender role orientation, presence of children in the home, and marital status on the experience and representation of the home were also examined.
The first study was concerned with identifying the critical elements of a home. It was found that a home is experienced in terms of critical personal, social, and physical characteristics. Personal privacy, freedom, self-expression, personalization, and positive atmosphere were identified as critical personal aspects of a home. Good social relationships within the household were critical social characteristics of a home. Critical physical characteristics included the satisfaction of basic physical needs such as shelter and security. In general, a high degree of consensus was found between men and women in their descriptions of home environments, although security was a more salient characteristic for women than men. Women also reported a stronger sense of belonging with the home than did men.
In the second study, the individual construct systems of home situations were compared. Twenty-two married or defacto heterosexual couples completed repertory grids, providing constructs to compare 25 home situations. The grids were analysed using similarity structure analysis. Significant consensus in the structure of home situations was found. Home situations were differentiated according to the degree of personal control and social connectedness associated with them. Clusters of situations included housework, recreation, social interaction, and personal chores. Recreation and social interaction were associated with high degrees of social connectedness, while housework and personal chores were associated with low degrees of social interaction. Recreation and personal chores were associated with high levels of personal control, and housework and social interaction with low levels of personal control.
The purpose of the third study was to examine the constructs used by subjects to discriminate between home situations in the previous study. The constructs were classified into eight main categories: degree of choice, relationship maintenance, self-orientation, social involvement, activity, temporal aspects, maintenance of the physical home, and work choices. Analysis of variance was then used to compare the salience of the constructs to the clusters of situations, as a function of sex, gender role orientation, and presence of children. Results indicated that women used self-orientation constructs in association with social interaction and housework situations more than did men. Subjects with children at home employed social involvement constructs in association with recreation situations more frequently than did subjects without children. Psychological profiles of types of home situations were found, and group differences were discussed.
The fourth study was concerned with the experience of being at home and employed a home diary (completed by 36 male and 36 female married people) to record the behavioural, social, physical, temporal, and affective components of home life. Subjects recorded all their activities, along with their locations, social context, and durations, as well as rating the affect associated with each activity for one weekday. In terms of how home activity was organized, sex was the most salient variable. Women spent more time engaged in housework activities than men, and reported enjoying these activities more than men. The most salient variable influencing the social environment of the home was the presence of children. People without children spent more lime with their partner than those with children at home. In addition, for all subjects, social contexts involving household members were associated with higher levels of positive and negative affect than contexts involving people from outside the home. Women spent more time in the kitchen than men, but otherwise used the home in a similar fashion. In general, the locations where people spent most time (kitchen, living room, and bedroom) were also associated with the highest levels of positive affect. Gender role orientation was not found to be an important factor influencing activity at home or the affect associated with it.
In the final study, home experience was related to the behavioural, social, and physical aspects of home situations. Following facet theory methodology, these aspects were theorized to be important facets of home situations. A mapping sentence incorporating these facets was used to derive facet structuples for a self-report instrument. Married subjects with children (16 male and 20 female) and without children (20 male and 20 female), as well as single people (40 male and 40 female) completed the instrument, which measured the frequency and affect associated with each structuple. Data were analysed using similarity structure analysis: MANOVA was used to examine group differences. A high degree of consensus was found amongst married and single subjects in the structure of their affective and temporal responses. The structure of affective responses and frequency responses were compared and found to be significantly alike. The social context and activity facets were more salient in organizing home experience than the physical location facet. Some group differences for sex, gender role orientation, and marital status were found in mean temporal and affective responses. In general, the impact of marital status was minimal, suggesting the operation of traditional social roles.
Empirical support for many of the qualities of a home described by Tognoli (1987) such as control, security, freedom, self-expression, personalization, and social relations was found. An overview shows evidence of sex differences in most of the studies conducted, although evidence of the moderation of this effect by gender role orientation was found for cognitive tasks. The application of these findings to other areas, such as housing design and marital counselling is discussed, and suggestions for future research are made.