(KUTV) — A new study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University suggests that how people feel about their homes is more important than its size.
According to the BYU study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the perception of how individuals feel about the space in their homes (i.e. if it's too crowded or too spread out) has more of an effect on the people and their families than the actual characteristics of the home, such as size and number of bedrooms.
“You can put two people in the same space but how they feel about that space affects how they interact with their family members,” stated Dr. Larry Nelson, a co-author and professor of family life at BYU. “The extent of that finding really surprised me."
It was so interesting to me just how much the actual physical structure of a home, and even more so what we think of our home, really affects how we treat one another in families.
To conduct this study, BYU researchers gathered data over a two-year period from 164 families with children ages 4 to 6. Some of this data included gathering information about home size and the number of family members in the residence, along with asking people if they felt that their home was either "too crowded" or "too spread out" and 19 more questions about how the family functions at home, such as "we avoid discussing our fears and concerns" to " we express tenderness." The researchers also included the family's income to the overall data because socioeconomic status could potentially be connected to home size and perceptions, according to the study.
“Before this study, I thought if your home just had the perfect square footage, so much per person, and you were organized, that you would have the ideal home,” said Carly Thornock, a former master’s student at BYU and co-author of the paper.
While the actual square footage affected families and how they functioned, it was really how they felt about the home in general that had the biggest effect.
The study's authors suggest shaping a home to help individuals and families feel secure with respected privacy and adequate social stimulation, which could help eliminate potentially harmful consequences for the family. Also, they believe that parents should take advantage of the physical aspects of the home, including furniture arrangement, decorations and overall use of space, to help foster family relationships.
“There’s a lot you can do to nurture your relationships with your family without saying anything,” Thornock said. “As a parent, if you want your kids to feel close and connected, you could consider putting their pictures on the wall in a highly visible spot in the home.”
The study's authors also suggest certain home layouts, such as an open floor plan, when executed properly, can alter the perception of feeling "trapped, crowded or even too far apart" from others.