The meaning of home
The meaning of home

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The meaning of home

1.2 The meaning of home

1.2.1 Positive and negative meanings

Many people spend a lot of time at home, they invest part of themselves within it, both materially and emotionally. So what does it mean?

Activity 1: What does home mean?

  1. The good news

Read through these comments and write down at least two important meanings of home which you feel emerge.

  • ‘It's family, it's where we live.’

  • ‘It's somewhere I feel safe, I'm always glad to come home.’

  • ‘It's somewhere to shut out the rest of the world.’

  • ‘I can be myself at home, I feel really settled.’

  • ‘It's comfortable, I've got this place just how I want it.’

  • ‘A place where all my things are around me.’

  • ‘It's familiar, I know where everything is.’

  • ‘It's financial security really, it's a place that we own.’

  1. The bad news

Once again, read through these comments and note down two important meanings which you feel emerge here.

  • ‘I can't get upstairs anymore and the roof leaks.’

  • ‘I never really settled here, it always felt temporary – my home was where I used to live.’

  • ‘You couldn't call this home, you can't swing a cat in here it's so small and there's no room to put any of your things.’

  • ‘I don't want to go home, I'm scared.’

  • ‘I've experienced homelessness in the past, so a dream house to me is four walls and a roof over my head. At present I'm stuck in bed-sit land. I've lived in one after another for a number of years. It can be really depressing.’

  • ‘I haven't been out for weeks, just looking at these four walls, it may be home but it feels like a prison.’


How did you get on? I thought there were a number of important meanings emerging from these comments. For example home is seen as:

  • a place where the family live

  • a secure place

  • a private place

  • a familiar or known place

  • a place for possessions.

These themes tell us something about attachment to place and how the home can engender feelings of belonging, security, safety and permanence – all feelings which can enhance self-esteem.

But is this always the case? Do you recall occasions when you have not liked your home? Have you ever heard people say bad things about their home? Not all experiences of home are positive.

In the second set of comments, you can see a range of negative views which contrast with the positive feelings about home expressed above.

You might have thought about the following:

  • that the physical environment can affect just how you make yourself at home

  • that the permanence of the situation affects how settled you may feel

  • that a poor environment can be depressing

  • that being alone and not being able to get out can lead to feelings of isolation

  • that who you live with, and your relationship with them, can make the home a fearful place and make you feel insecure.

So while most people tend to express positive views about their home, the experience of home can be both positive and negative and you will probably have noticed that some of these positives and negatives are opposites. For instance:

  • security versus insecurity

  • rich environment versus poor environment

  • permanence versus impermanence

  • safety versus fear

  • belonging versus rootlessness

  • somewhere that enhances self-esteem versus somewhere that demoralises.

But this does not mean that everything is always this clear cut – people can experience positive and negative feelings at the same time. For example a place may be important psychologically because it has connections with the past but it may offer a poor physical environment which no longer meets a person's physical needs. This can be a common experience for some older people.

Key points

  • Attachment to home and place is one of the ways people preserve self-identity.

  • Some service users have to move away from a place to which they are attached in order to receive care.

  • Home can mean different things to different people.

  • People can experience positive and negative feelings about their home at the same time.

These themes all tell us something about how people become attached to particular places. The following sections look at three aspects of attachment in more detail. First, how places become personalised. Second, the way attachment to place may relate to group identity as well as personal identity. Third, how the immediate home and its surroundings can become an important practical, social and psychological resource.


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