Striking the balance : the social dynamics of shared household living among young adults in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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Shared housing or flatting is an affordable, popular housing pathway for young adults in New Zealand and the Western world. The current protracted transition period between adolescence and traditional markers of adulthood status, such as stable employment and marriage has extended flatting tenure into early thirties and beyond. Whereas the dominant motivation is economic, the lifestyle is also socially attractive. Literature on peer co-residence is limited, particularly with regard to how interpersonal relationships are managed in the domestic intimacy of shared living. The rationale for this research was to expand on what is currently known about sharing by contributing a more comprehensive understanding of the social dynamics of young households. With an ontological commitment to social constructionism, discourse analysis was employed to analyse talk of the a posteriori knowledge of experienced flatters between the ages of 20 and 35. The approach is inductive and data driven. In total 37 people were interviewed, 14 in individual interviews, and 23 in flat groups. Participants were Pākehā apart from 2 Māori and 2 who identify as mixed Māori/ Pākehā. Twenty-two were female and fifteen were male. Analysis considers the construction of ideal flatmates; preferences for flatting with friends or strangers, couples or singles; whether the social advantages of flatting are compromised by household chores; the efficacy of rosters; conflict and how participants conceive the concept of the household dynamic. Discourses are extensively interrelated and overlapping with a number of competing tensions evident. For example, desirable housemates were constructed as being cognisant of the need to be sociable but also independent. A requisite fine balance across a number of spheres to sustain a functional household was a dominant, pervasive discourse. Talk was driven by the fundamental value associated with having a working living arrangement. In an unregulated environment with no cultural blue prints, young New Zealanders are acutely conscious of the need to carefully navigate domestic relationships and avoid potential complications that impact on quality of life. While this study provides rich insight into the complexity of house sharing it also sheds valuable light on small group dynamics and the extended transition to adulthood.
Roommates, Shared housing, Social aspects, New Zealand, Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES::Social sciences::Psychology