Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Elyse Warner, Lecturer in Health and Social Sciences, Deakin University

Newer high-rise developments in Australia’s inner-city areas are increasingly home to parents raising young children. In the 2016 Census, family households represented nearly half of apartment residents. Close to one in ten children aged 0-4 live in apartments in Australia.

Our research, recently published in Health and Place, explored parents’ experiences of raising preschool-aged children in newer, private high-rise apartments. The parents experienced a range of barriers to making social connections both within their developments and with the surrounding community.

Read more: With apartment living on the rise, how do families and their noisy children fit in?

This reflects the fact that most newer high-rise dwellings in Australia have been developed for residents without children. Several studies indicate that this leads to potential issues for families raising children in high-rise settings, including social connectedness among older schoolchildren.

Apartment living through parents’ eyes

Our study used Photovoice to explore parents’ experiences of raising children in apartments in the City of Yarra, Melbourne. Apartments represent 46% of available housing) in this inner-city municipality. Parents took ten photographs of the positive and challenging aspects of apartment living.

We then used these images to guide both individual and group interviews. Parents recognised that the shared experiences of raising a young child in the City of Yarra fostered social connections, particularly at mothers’ groups and local parks. One parent explained:

So this is my mothers’ group … It’s such a great community to have. I mean we’re kind of a close group now and we’ve just spent the last year growing our kids together … there was people from all different walks of life … and the only thing connecting us is just that we had a child in Yarra at the same time …

Apartment life for families means living at close quarters, but often feeling isolated too The mothers’ group: ‘we’ve just spent the last year growing our kids together’.

But parents felt that space constraints in high-rise developments limited opportunities for play dates between children. The connections parents developed were also lost when other families planned to leave the community, or had already left, in search of larger homes and outdoor space.

Read more: 'Children belong in the suburbs': with more families in apartments, such attitudes are changing

The design of developments did not encourage incidental social interaction with neighbours either. One parent captured this in a photograph titled “Hallway of death”.

Apartment life for families means living at close quarters, but often feeling isolated too Hallway of death: ‘you cannot stand and have a conversation there’.

It’s a nothing space, right? … You cannot stand and have a conversation there, you feel weird … cos you’re in the vortex of death … and if it was a nice space we might go out and he could crawl and that might make people stop and maybe we’d get to know the other people living on the floor …

The closeness of apartments was also problematic. On one hand, parents wanted to connect with their neighbours. On the other hand, they were concerned about overstepping others’ boundaries, particularly when neighbours were often short-term renters without children. One parent’s photograph, “Close proximity but anonymous”, captured this.

Apartment life for families means living at close quarters, but often feeling isolated too Close but anonymous: ‘it’s anonymous and there’s a lot of turnover’.

… despite being so close to each other there is a huge level of anonymity … It would be nice to not feel that we might be being disruptive or people are forming judgments about us based on what they see … And because it’s anonymous and there’s a lot of turnover you never really form relationships with people to know what they’re really thinking, so you second-guess it …

Everyone wants some privacy and maybe when you’re right on top of each other you feel like you’ve got to guard your privacy, but my preference would be for it to be a little more connected than it is.

Families need social support

Parents of preschool-aged children often experience changes in their social networks at the same as they feel an increased need for social support. Connections also need to be closer to home, due to the “place-anchoring” nature of young children and use of local services.

Not having strong social connections with other parents, whether within their own high-rise development and/or the local community, is therefore a problem. It could lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. These could, in turn, contribute to psychosocial and health issues for parents and poorer health, well-being and education outcomes for children.

What could help?

Recent Victorian apartment design guidelines briefly acknowledge the importance of ensuring accessibility for families with young children. However, much more can be done to support families in inner-city high-rise developments. This includes fostering social connections.

Read more: More children are living in high-rise apartments, so designers should keep them in mind

Local governments can provide further social events in their communities, create infrastructure in parks and playgrounds to encourage families to gather for longer, and require developers to adopt more family-friendly design guidelines than currently apply.

Developers could also provide more favourable communal spaces inside dwellings for interaction to occur. Body corporate organisations could encourage longer-term leases that allow for the extended tenure needed for residents to form stronger connections.

Guidelines, including in regards to noise, could also be made more flexible to accommodate the increasing number of families with young children taking up residence.

The study was carried out with Dr Fiona Andrews from the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University.

Authors: Elyse Warner, Lecturer in Health and Social Sciences, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/apartment-life-for-families-means-living-at-close-quarters-but-often-feeling-isolated-too-120983

Writers Wanted

Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been released. But will a prisoner swap with Australia encourage more hostage-taking by Iran?


Ancient Earth had a thick, toxic atmosphere like Venus – until it cooled off and became liveable


Not just hot air: turning Sydney's wastewater into green gas could be a climate boon


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion