SANTA CLARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--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.
Santa Clara University Psychology Professor Jerry Burger found that almost everyone who visits a childhood home goes to the place they lived from the ages of five to 12. Burger says people have an emotional attachment to their childhood home because it’s a part of their self-identity, and the self is developed between the ages of 5 and 12.
Burger found that one third of American adults over the age of the 30 has made a trip to visit a childhood home. There are three primary reasons for the trip:
They want to reconnect with their childhood. 42 percent of people who visit a childhood home say that they couldn’t remember everything from their childhood and that they wanted to return in hopes of jogging their memory and getting back in touch with who they were as a child.
They’re going through some kind of crisis or problem, and they want to reflect on their past. 15 percent of those studied expressed the need to reevaluate how they developed their values and what led them to make the decisions that they made.
They have unfinished business from childhood. 12 percent suffered from some kind of abuse or trauma and thought that returning to the home where they experienced that pain would be therapeutic or bring some kind of closure.
Burger found that in almost all of the cases, people were glad they returned to the home where they grew up. He did find three exceptions:
When people returned, the house in which they grew up had significantly changed or was no longer there. This was usually very upsetting. Some of these folks wished they had not made the trip.
When they returned in hopes of escaping from their problems and reliving the romanticized memory they had of their childhood, reality sunk in. These people weren’t happy with their lives and thought returning to the place where they had pleasant memories would help make them happier. They quickly realized though that they couldn’t conjure happiness.
Those who returned to work through issues from childhood sometimes didn’t do well. People who had suffered from terrible abuse sometimes couldn’t overcome the painful memories that returned when they were back in their childhood home. Burger recommends people revisiting the past to confront a traumatic period in their lives to do so with the help of a professional counselor.
Burger also reports that after devastating disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes, most people rebuild and move back in, even if the same disaster is likely to happen again.
Burger’s research is now published in his new book, Returning Home: Reconnecting with our Childhoods.
Burger is psychology professor at Santa Clara University and is an expert on social norms, social psychology, obedience, and sports superstitions.
About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University is a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley. Santa Clara offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s degrees in a number of professional fields, law degrees, and engineering and theology doctorates. Distinguished by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, Santa Clara educates leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion grounded in faith-inspired values. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara is California’s oldest operating institution of higher education. For more information, see www.scu.edu.