A sense of purpose and a sense of place: Examining rural residence and adolescent development

Devora Shamah and K.A. MacTavish

Previous studies indicating the positive influences of farming and small town life on youth development support the notion that experiences within place influence a youth’s emerging sense of purpose (Salamon, 2003; Elder & Conger 2000). Using survey and ethnographic data from a study of youth in rural Oregon, this paper explores how a sense of purpose is shaped by youth’s perceptions of small town and rural life. Survey results show a moderate correlation between perceptions of place and a youth’s sense of purpose, (.47, p < .001, n= 271). Qualitative interview, observational and photographic data from 18 high school youth indicate that perceptions are one factor that may contribute to the development of a strong sense of purpose.

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