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

Authors: 
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.