Roommate got you down? It may not be your fault.
A recent University of Notre Dame study published in Clinical Psychological Science by psychologists Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames found that one’s mental health can be drastically effected—positively or negatively—by his or her roommate’s mood.
Most often at Lafayette, a student’s first-year roommate is selected randomly, although that first-years are allowed to choose their own roommates. Unfortunately, the results of these pairings are not always as ideal as one would hope for.
Because some of the three students spoken with still live with their roommates and others remain acquaintances with their ex-roommates, students interviewed for this article requested anonymity.
“My roommate can be pretty annoying at times, and I find it hard to communicate that with them,” a freshman said.
Some students talked about the difficult period of adjustment before they and their roommates got along, while others said they never adjusted.
“The idea that things sort of even out makes a lot of sense, [but] there has to be some adjustment made there or else there’s tension,” social psychology professor Alan Childs said. “Ultimately, the human being does best in homeostasis.”
Compromise is naturally what roommates may lean towards, Childs added, as people tend to desire peaceful environments rather than positioning themselves to face confrontation.
“People who live together do seem to synchronize their rhythm of life together, even physiologically: in terms of wakefulness and sleep cycles, women’s periods, meal times, etcetera,” Childs said.
Even if roommates might seem compatible on paper, their pairing does not always work in each roommate’s best interest.
“I came in all gung-ho about college and was more gung-ho about the social aspects,” a senior said. “My roommate was a lot more academically oriented and didn’t seem to want to be involved at all in social life.”
Associate Director of Residence Life Julie Mulé said she has a goal: “for students to live on campus with other people that they can learn from…regardless of where you live, there are positive things that will come out of [random selection] if you…look for them or make it a positive experience.”
Mulé and the entire Res Life team do their best to match students on their preferences on the first year housing survey, and rarely have students requested room changes.
A freshman took a more positive outlook on her roommate’s vastly different personality, stating, “I wouldn’t like to be roomed with another one of myself. Having a roommate with such a different personality is highly entertaining.”
Reporting contributed by Julia Ben-Asher ‘14