Returning Home

Reconnecting with Our Childhoods

By (author) Jerry M. Burger

Publication date:

16 March 2011

Length of book:

152 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442206809

Each year millions of American adults visit a childhood home. Few can anticipate the effect it will have on them. Often serving several important psychological needs, these trips are not intended as visits with people from their past. Rather, those returning to their homes have a strong desire to visit the places that comprised the landscape of their childhood. Approximately one third of American adults over the age of thirty have visited a childhood home. This book describes some of their experiences and the psychology behind the journeys.

Most people who visit a childhood home are motivated by a desire to connect with their past. Seeing the buildings, schools, parks, and playgrounds from their youth helps to establish the psychological and emotional link between the child in the black-and-white photographs and the person they are today. Many people use the trip to get in touch with the values and principles they were taught as children, often as a means to get their lives back on track. Others use that journey to strengthen emotional bonds between themselves and loved ones. Still others return to former homes to work through psychological issues left over from sad or traumatic childhoods. No matter the reason, there are few experiences in one's life that can move a person as deeply and unpredictably as returning home.
Although Thomas Wolfe observed that one cannot go home again, Dorothy returned from Oz proclaiming, "There's no place like home!" Burger (psychology, Santa Clara Univ.) builds a convincing argument for extending attachment theory to the home by revealing the powerful effects adults experience when they visit childhood homes. His concept of place does not mean returning home for class reunions so much as returning to visit the playground, ice cream parlor, favorite tree, or baseball diamond where significant childhood memories were created. He also discusses the experiences of adults who moved around so frequently as children that no single childhood home stands out as significant. Basing his study on information obtained in hundreds of interviews, Burger demonstrates that a "home attachment" is often formed between the individual and the place he or she lived between the ages of 5 and 12. The individual's sense of self is often defined with reference to qualities of "the old neighborhood," and the desire to return home is often linked to a need to reconnect with the past, to cope or overcome current problems, or to work through psychological issues that remain from childhood. The childhood home surely serves as a secure base for exploration throughout one's entire life. Highly recommended. All readers.