Examining the relationship between place attachment and community involvement : impact on social capital in communities in rural Missouri
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Rural communities face unique challenges; many are declining as evidenced by empty storefronts on Main Streets that were once the economic backbone of their communities (Flora et. al, Wood, 2008). Yet in the midst of this decline, there are those such as Barry County, Missouri, whose towns have participated in visioning projects, worked to fill all storefronts around the county square, and are engaged in historic preservation work in several of their downtown areas. The high levels of social capital illustrated by residents such as these led to a research interest to identify qualities of citizens engaged in these project as they not only illustrate strong place attachment, but also high community involvement, and therefore, positively impact social capital. This research project Examining the Relationship between Place Attachment and Community Involvement: Impact on Social Capital in Communities in Rural Missouri utilizes a triangulation approach to examine the holistic relationship between place attachment, community involvement, and social capital. It is employed to increase validity of findings. Document review provides context in which to view the community, and gives insights to all three concepts from a historic review. This information combined with focus group yields insights to potential changes over time with all three concepts. Finally, an online survey was developed that included indices identifying residents' levels of place attachment, community involvement, and social capital. Relationships emerged during correlation analysis that identified the variables that connected all three concepts. Five clusters emerged that define various aspects of the concepts of place attachment, community involvement, and social capital: Experience in Place, Sense of Community, Place Identity, Active Citizenship, and Community Building. Five variables were identified in four of the five clusters including Experience in Place, Place Identity, Active Citizenship, and Community Building. These variables included: 1) Barry County is a part of me. 2) I identify strongly with Barry County. 3) I get more satisfaction out of living in Barry County than any other community; no other place can compare to Barry County. 4) I am attached to Barry County; the community means a lot to me. 5) Living in Barry County says a lot about who I am. An examination of these variables indicates they are conceptually linked as a person's identity within a community is tied directly to three of the variables (identify strongly, part of me, and who I am). When someone has strong, positive identification with a place, it leads to increased satisfaction in that community, and ultimately attachment. This type of place attachment, where a person's identification is directly linked with that place, leads to high community involvement, and positively impacts social capital. These findings provide important baseline information regarding the holistic relationship between place attachment, community involvement, and social capital.