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Get Out of My Room!

A History of Teen Bedrooms in America

Teenage life is tough. You’re at the mercy of parents, teachers, and siblings, all of whom insist on continuing to treat you like a kid and refuse to leave you alone. So what do you do when it all gets to be too much? You retreat to your room (and maybe slam the door).

Even in our era of Snapchat and hoverboards, bedrooms remain a key part of teenage life, one of the only areas where a teen can exert control and find some privacy. And while these separate bedrooms only became commonplace after World War II, the idea of the teen bedroom has been around for a long time. With Get Out of My Room!, Jason Reid digs into the deep historical roots of the teen bedroom and its surprising cultural power. He starts in the first half of the nineteenth century, when urban-dwelling middle-class families began to consider offering teens their own spaces in the home, and he traces that concept through subsequent decades, as social, economic, cultural, and demographic changes caused it to become more widespread. Along the way, Reid shows us how the teen bedroom, with its stuffed animals, movie posters, AM radios, and other trappings of youthful identity, reflected the growing involvement of young people in American popular culture, and also how teens and parents, in the shadow of ongoing social changes, continually negotiated the boundaries of this intensely personal space.

Richly detailed and full of surprising stories and insights, Get Out of My Room! is sure to offer insight and entertainment to anyone with wistful memories of their teenage years. (But little brothers should definitely keep out.)


“A concise and well-researched history of the rooms in which kids carry out the hideous process of becoming grown-ups.”

Wall Street Journal

“An engaging and affectionately written book.”

Times Higher Education

“Reid is convincing on child-rearing theory. The joy of the book, though, is how he enters into the minds of young people themselves, through anecdotes, memoirs, and diary entries.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Reid’s book is an excellent work of popular history. He’s an engaging writer with a clear, informative style and his deep research into the subject shows throughout.”


“From iconic posters to stereo systems to the music, movies and pop culture consumed therein, little is left untouched with regard to the evolution of the idea of the teenager’s bedroom. Thoroughly and exhaustively researched and reasoned, Get Out of My Room! takes a serious look at an otherwise largely overlooked phenomena, one we now essentially take for granted.”

Spectrum Culture

“A comprehensive and engaging study that accomplishes what all historical writing aims for but which it so seldom achieves. It illuminates its subject matter while simultaneously enriching the reader’s understanding of the broader historical periods in which it contextualizes Reid’s analysis. Get Out of My Room! is a worthwhile addition to the existing historiography in its own right as well as an excellent reference point for twentieth-century US social and
cultural history.”

Journal of American Play

“Clearly written and well-argued. . .Using the teen bedroom as his focal point, Reid offers new insight into significant social and cultural changes in modern American history.“

Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures

“The sign pictured on the book’s cover may read “Keep Out!,” but in Get Out of My Room!: A History of Teen Bedrooms in America, Reid props the door wide open and invites readers inside for a good snoop. What we find are eight engaging and well-researched chapters charting the emergence and spread of the teenaged bedroom from the antebellum era to the early twenty-first century. . .A compelling history that reveals how teens’ rooms became the idealized locus of children’s maturation, personal expression, and educational enrichment, while continuously shaping and reflecting broader social and cultural change in the United States.”

Historical Studies in Education

“A volume rich in archival evidence and intersectional arguments about such matters as gender, class, religion, and age. . .Looking at the sites where American teen bedrooms have been sketched, from popular songs to periodical press to TV shows and beyond, and bringing together archival depth and analytical precision, Get out of My Room! rekindles interdisciplinary scholarly attention to spaces of childhood beyond the disciplinary confines of history.”


“During the nineteenth century, room arrangements for children—particularly teenagers—changed dramatically, with the unusual turn toward separate rooms. In Get Out of My Room!, Reid documents the causes of this change: shifts in prosperity, demographics, and, particularly, the advice of experts. He traces this trend across social groups, touching on gender, class, and race. Along the way, Reid picks up concomitants of this trend: patterns of decoration, technology and consumer goods, entertainments, parental concerns, and parental anxiety over sex and drugs. It’s a comprehensive and compelling assessment of a major shift in the history of socialization and family relations.”

Peter Stearns, George Mason University

“This richly researched history describes in vivid detail how teenagers acquired a room of their own, how the teen bedroom because a sanctuary for adolescent self-expression, and how this private space came to evoke parental anxieties over masturbation, psychological withdrawal, illicit smoking, drinking and drug use, and more recently, cyberbullying, sexting, and the time devoted to playing videogames or following social networking websites. As Reid makes clear, the teen bedroom fundamentally altered the relations between parents and adolescents, nurtured a distinctive teenage psychology, and provided a setting in which an autonomous teenage culture would flourish.”

Steven Mintz, author of Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood

“Reid uses the bedroom—that iconic symbol of youthful independence and angst—as a space where religion, child development, sexuality, creativity, gender, technology, and pop culture could be explored and, sometimes, controlled. Starting with the first hints of interest in providing separate spaces for youth in the early nineteenth century, and drawing on the points of view of teenagers, parents, and experts alike, Get Out of My Room provides a fascinating look at youthful choices, parental concerns, and the evolving nature of coming of age in America.”

James Marten, Marquette University

“Reid skillfully reveals the expansion of adolescence in America over the last two hundred years by tracing the history of the most intimate space in many young American’s lives—their bedrooms. Opening the door to teen bedrooms, Reid reveals how young Americans experienced the shifting landscapes of class, race, urbanization and suburbanization, education, popular culture, and the growing secularization of society and family life. Ultimately, this history is a debate over dependency and autonomy, a fundamental question underlying the conflict over equality and power throughout American history.”

Kriste Lindenmeyer, author of The Greatest Generation Grows Up: American Childhood in the 1930s

Table of Contents

1          A Little Wholesome Neglect
2          A Site of Developmental Significance
3          Give a Room a Little Personality—Yours!
4          The Sign Reads ‘Keep Out’
5          Rooms to a Teen’s Tastes
6          Go to Your Multimedia Center!
7          Danger!
8          Just Like Brian Wilson Did . . .

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