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Doing family in co-housing communities

Chapter in book
Authors Cathrin Wasshede
Published in Hagbert, P., Larsen, H. G., Thörn, H. and Wasshede, C. (eds.) (2019) Contemporary Co-housing in Europe Towards Sustainable Cities?
Pages 140-162
ISBN 9780429450174
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication London
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 140-162
Language en
Keywords Co-housing, family, children, emotions, boundary work, care
Subject categories Sociology


In this chapter emotional boundary work relating to ‘family’ in co-housing communities is analysed, with a special focus on shared meals, children’s relationships and care. In almost all co-housing communities, the kitchen and practices of cooking and eating together are said to be cornerstones for the sense of collectivity. Further, the dream of a ‘good childhood’ is another cornerstone in many multi-generational co-housing communities. The chapter is based on empirical material from visits to six co-housing communities in Sweden and two in Denmark. People in co-housing communities deal with at least two ideas of what a family is: one favouring the intimacy and privacy of the nuclear family and the other favouring the wider ‘family’, i.e. the community in the house – and sometimes even the neighbourhood and/or the city. Frictions between these two ideas often lead to ambivalences that are handled with the help of what is described here as emotional boundary work. The different ways of doing family that emerge among people living in co-housing communities shed light on the relationship between the individual and the collective, a recurring theme in research about co-housing.

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