Housing awareness, importance, preferences, and satisfaction of pre- and early-adolescent children in Appalachian Kentucky

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Housing, a basic necessity, is frequently described as costly and increasingly designated as unaffordable; yet, there is a continuing conventionality in American tastes, desires, and ideals of housing. In order to expand housing knowledge, and, perhaps to facilitate the use of housing alternatives, attitudes/perceptions of housing held by pre- and early-adolescent children were investigated. The awareness, satisfaction, and importance attributed to housing by this consumer age group, who are often perceived as unconcerned or unopinionated, may be indicative of future housing demand and permanence of housing norms.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in an Appalachian Kentucky county were surveyed regarding housing knowledge, opinions, preferences, satisfactions, and importance. Rather than a lack of opinion, the 172 participants revealed definite perceptions of housing in general, their individual housing situations, and concern for the future/cost of housing. Overall, housing attitudes were traditional and conservative; there was a general unwillingness to accept energy-conservative or manufactured dwellings. While the children were relatively satisfied with their housing, they did not attribute great importance to housing.

Older children were more aware of housing, attributed greater importance to it, and reported more normative preferences. Housing satisfaction was greater if the child was male, lived in a residence that aligned with housing norms, or was from a household with a greater number of amenities. Older children, or those with greater housing experience, were more likely to prefer neighborhood homogeneity. General preferences for housing replicated the child's current housing situation.

With today's cost of housing, as well as changing family needs for housing, the child gains importance as a housing consumer not only for the home's impact upon his/her development, but also for the future demand he/she will contribute to the housing market. Housing education regarding current and potential alternatives not only can help young housing users to develop more realistic perceptions and expectations of housing but also may facilitate the choice of and improve satisfaction with housing alternatives.