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Although Thomas Wolfe observed that one cannot go home again, Dorothy returned from Oz proclaiming, “There’s no place like home!” Burger (psychology, Santa Clara Univ.) builds a convincing argument for extending attachment theory to the home by revealing the powerful effects adults experience when they visit childhood homes. His concept of place does not mean returning home for class reunions so much as returning to visit the playground, ice cream parlor, favorite tree, or baseball diamond where significant childhood memories were created. He also discusses the experiences of adults who moved around so frequently as children that no single childhood home stands out as significant. Basing his study on information obtained in hundreds of interviews, Burger demonstrates that a “home attachment” is often formed between the individual and the place he or she lived between the ages of 5 and 12. The individual’s sense of self is often defined with reference to qualities of “the old neighborhood,” and the desire to return home is often linked to a need to reconnect with the past, to cope or overcome current problems, or to work through psychological issues that remain from childhood. The childhood home surely serves as a secure base for exploration throughout one’s entire life.

Highly recommended. All readers.


An engaging, sensitive and informative psychological exploration of the common desire by American adults to revisit their childhood homes. Professor Burger argues for home-visiting as a kind of ‘place-therapy’: for establishing a sense of connection with the past, dealing with current crises and concerns, and working on issues from the past that will not go away. While the passage of time threatens to fragment our senses of self, reconnecting with the sensory, physical environment of formative years effects a kind of emotional wholeness.

Nigel Rapport, Editor of Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World of Movement

Interesting, entertaining … A fascinating description and analysis of an intriguing phenomenon. Recommended reading for everyone interested in or struggling with nostalgia and homesickness.

Ad Vingerhoets, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

returning home short stories book cover