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Housing As Shelter, Housing As Symbol

Housing is a built form, or dwelling, where people engage in daily activities that sustain residents, such as eating, sleeping, economic activities, and socialization. Housing comes in many architectural forms, including single-family detached houses, apartments, or row housing. Housing refers here to the various forms of shelter used by families.

The study of housing can be approached from nearly all the scientific and humanistic fields. Disciplines such as physics and engineering can contribute to the study of physical aspects of housing, such as how certain air contaminants can enter a dwelling. Aesthetics and artistic expression assist in understanding the design of housing and how it affects human behavior. The relationship between families and their houses is described in this entry through social and psychological terms.

Families rely on their housing for shelter from the elements and adversity. Variations in form, which range from local folk structures to high-style architecture, (Ennals and Holdsworth 1998) suggest that housing is more than shelter. Witold Rybczynski (1992) notes that the arrangement, amenities, and adornment of houses are symbols of public and private cultural notions of family life. Symbols are shared meanings, and the built form of housing is endowed with meaning as an indicator of social organization and social, legal, and economic status. Family housing is both shelter and symbol.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily & Marriage Traditions