Home sweet home: an examination of the relationship between place attachment and place-protective actions

Charis Elizabeth Anton

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

When places are threatened, people who reside in them are often reminded of the emotional bonds they have with that place. These bonds can motivate people to engage in place-protective behaviours in an attempt to stop whatever is threatening to change the place. These emotional bonds with a place are commonly termed place attachment. There are many conceptualisations of place attachment, but it is often theorised to be composed of an emotional/symbolic component and a functional component. These components are termed place identity and place dependence respectively. The aim of this thesis was to measure the relationship between living in a threatened place and place attachment and to explore the relationship between place attachment and place-protective behaviours. There were two different place-protective actions measured: bushfire mitigation and preparation and collective action.

The first study (Chapter Two) aimed to find out if place-protective actions in the form of bushfire mitigation and preparation were predicted by place attachment. Australia is the most bushfire-prone country in the world. Fires occur frequently, making it vital for people living in bushfire-prone areas to constantly be prepared and to have acted to mitigate the risk of their homes burning down. Previous studies have found that place attachment is related to disaster preparation and mitigation, to varying degrees. The results of the first study supported this and found that people living in rural bushfire-prone areas implemented more mitigation measures if they were strongly attached to their homes. However, there was no relationship between place attachment and fire mitigation for people who lived in urban-fringe areas (or the wildland-urban interface), even though the two groups had similar levels of place attachment and a similar fire risk.

The second study (Chapter Three) tested the proposal that people who live in threatened places would report stronger place attachment than people living in places which are not threatened. The first study found that people living in threatened rural and urban-fringe places reported similar levels of place attachment. In the second study these two samples were compared to people living in the centre of rural towns and people living in the inner-city. It was hypothesised that as the latter two places have a lower bushfire threat they would report lower place attachment. The results suggest there is no difference in place attachment between people living in rural towns and people living in less built up rural areas. Both of these groups, along with the urban-fringe sample, reported significantly higher place dependence than the inner-city sample. This suggests that living in a place threatened by bushfire reminds people of their dependence on their homes. The rural groups also reported significantly stronger place identity than the urban groups, suggesting that people who live in the country, far from amenities and services, may do so because being a ‘country person’ is part of their identities. People who live in more urban areas may do so for convenience rather than because they feel that being urban is part of their identities.

The aim of the third study (Chapter Four) was investigate whether the findings from the first two studies applied to a different threat. The threat focused on in this study was changes to local government boundaries and the place-protective action was protesting. It was hypothesised that, similarly to the first two studies, people who felt that the changes were threatening to the identity of their local areas would report stronger place attachment and that place attachment would predict protesting. The hypotheses were partially supported. People who thought that the changes would be negative for their local areas reported significantly higher place dependence than people who thought that the changes would be positive. This was not found for place identity. Place attachment was correlated with protesting but did not predict protesting over the theory of planned behaviour, which measured attitudes about the importance of protesting, family and friend norms regarding protesting and perceived behavioural control.

Together, these three studies examine the effects of living in a threatened place on place attachment and how place attachment is related to place-protective actions. Place attachment, particularly place dependence, was found to be stronger in people who live in threatened places, or at least perceive that they do. Place attachment was found to be related to place protective behaviours but did not always predict them.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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