Crowding and the daily lives of families during the covid-19-pandemic
26 Oct 2020
Housing conditions matter for families with children and are an important aspect of childhood environment. Crowding may affect the possibility for rest, private life and family stress.
Knowledge about how much space we dispose of in our homes, and how spaciousness varies between different groups, are well established in Norway. Low-income families with children are often the most overcrowded, but we know less about how crowding is experienced and how it affects families’ daily lives. The Norwegian COVID-19 lockdown in March and April 2020 led to major changes in daily life as most people spent much more time at home due to the closure of kindergartens and schools and as many workplaces and businesses either closed or introduced working from home for their employees. Consequently, the home and the housing conditions became more important as adults and children spent almost all their time at home. How did families with children experience this situation? How did the COVID-19 restrictions shape the daily lives of children and parents, and what was the importance of crowding and other resources?
The paper explores these questions based on an online survey (N = 602) targeting all families with children attending kindergartens in an ethnically and socio-economically diverse suburban district of Oslo facing challenging living conditions and overcrowding according to national standards. By using the COVID-19 lockdown as a lens to study the situation of families with children, the study offers new insights into the daily lives and housing conditions of a broad spectrum of families, especially focused on the crowded ones. We find a clear concentration of challenging living conditions in crowded families, and they differ significantly from other households by restricted opportunity structures for digital meetings and internet access, children’s activation, mobility, isolation from neighbours, and increased family stress due to crowding and worries over economic concerns. At the same time, in a period of withdrawal of welfare state services, the closest family and friend relationships have been activated and strengthened more among crowded families than among others.