When a new suburb, town or estate is established, planners must take a great deal of consideration for how neighbours will interact and the amount of community spirit it will produce. But the question is whether high community spirit and a high level of neighbourly interaction is desirable or needed in today’s society as households become more independent and move further away from each other. This is a question that I ask after reading three famous studies by Michael Young and Peter Wilmott (1957), Lyn Richards (1990) and Mark Peel (2000) on neighbours and how they interact in different housing developments.
All three readings discuss different aspects of neighbours and the connection between them, but the universal question that seemed to be attempted to be answered by all was what the causes of changes in neighbourly interaction were.
Young and Willmott’s classic study was conducted from 1953 to 1955 by taking a selection of working class families and residents from a borough in East London, Bethnal Green, and moved them to a new estate on the outer fringes of London, Greenleigh, to see how they interacted with their neighbours. Intriguing results ensued, which deserve further discussion. (They stated that they were not expecting the results that were observed and I will discuss their findings.)
The main subject that Young and Wilmott address is the wider family as ‘kinship networks’ and how strong it is in the inner city. Both Young and Wilmott and Richards (1990) found that neighbours took the place of absent kin. When the sample families from Bethnal Green were interviewed by Young and Wilmott in their new estate, Greenleigh, most of them thought that the neighbours were unfriendly and that they were neither enemies nor friends. Upon further reading, however, it became apparent that the cause of the ‘unfriendliness’ may have been due to the lack of similarities that they had with each other, rather than an inher...