Staying home for nightlife

It’s not just the coronavirus that’s making young people spend their evenings at home. When they are not under the watchful eyes of parents, home can be a place of autonomy and intimacy.

[source: Horizons The Swiss Research Magazine] For many young adults, much of their night life takes place at home. Spending private time with their friends like this is very important to them. According to a study carried out by Katharina Pelzelmayer and Sara Landolt from the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich, home for young people is a place of autonomy and safety.

“For young people, nightlife is important. It allows them to explore their limits and develop their personalities and friendships. Most studies look at nightlife in the public space: bars, clubs, parks or streets. But we have found that more than half of all night-time activities take place in private spaces”, says Pelzelmayer.

The researchers analysed 40 semi-structured interviews with participants aged 16 to 25 years old in the context of two interdisciplinary research projects of the Swiss National Science Foundation on the night-time practices of young people (“Youth@Night” and “Dusk2Dawn”). They highlighted that the home is an essential nightlife space and an important symbolic concept for young people.

More than half of their night-time activities take place in this private area.

If they have access to the home without parental control, it offers an autonomy that predisposes them to nights of relaxation. It allows for self-expression and control over alcohol consumption. This finding adds to the existing literature, which has explored the home as a sphere of autonomy and security. The notion is disrupted where access is limited and parental supervision present. In this case, home rhymes with social exclusion and loneliness, the study says.

In their stories, the young people also talk about “private outings” with their friends. This preference for intimacy, also expressed at home parties, reveals an intertwining of the private and public spheres of nightlife and adds complexity to the literature linking such outings to meeting new people. This discovery opens up new perspectives for studying how space and identity are co-constitutive.

K. Pelzelmayer, S. Landolt et al.: Youth nightlife at home: towards a feminist conceptualisation of home (2020)