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Returning Home

by Jerry M. Burger

Each year millions of American adults visit a childhood home. These trips serve several important psychological needs, yet to date no one has written about this common — and often very emotional — experience. For more than a decade, Jerry M. Burger, a professor of psychology, has conducted research on people who visit former homes. That research and stories from people who made these journeys are presented in Returning Home: Reconnecting with Our Childhoods (Rowman-Littlefield).

Most people who visit a childhood home are motivated by a desire to connect with their past. Seeing the buildings, schools, parks and playgrounds from their childhood helps to establish the psychological and emotional link between the child in the black-and-white photographs and the person they are today. Many people use the trip to get in touch with the values and principles they were taught as children, often as a means to get their lives back on track. Some use the trip to strengthen emotional bonds between themselves and loved ones. Still others return to former homes to work through psychological issues left over from sad or traumatic childhoods. In Returning Home, Burger explains the psychology behind each of these reasons and why visiting a childhood home is often a satisfying and sometimes therapeutic experience.