Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Psychology


School of Community Studies


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Moira O'Connor


This research aims to address deficiencies in the Place-Identity literature and establish whether the home is a central and mediating environment within this theory. An exploration of the association between homelessness and Place-Identity provides a vehicle for clarifying the psychological role of the home and in doing so an increased awareness of this social problem is promoted. Korpela's (1989) and Kaplan's (1983) theories on place, accentuating active self-regulatory mechanisms and restorative environments, act as a catalyst and provide a solid foundation for this current research. The extensive literature on the home highlights the different conceptions that abound and the lack of consensus regarding the impact of this environment. The environmental psychology paradigm promotes an understanding of the mutuality between people and their environments and in line with this belief it is Sixsmith's (1986) model of the home emphasizing the complementarity of the physical, social and emotional components that is the most influential, raising questions as to whether privacy and socialization are central adaptive functions and whether the physical environment can create a means for them to be fostered. The accent of the research is placed on a comparative analysis between homeless and non-homeless youth aged between 12-20 living in Perth's inner and outer suburbs. A random sampling procedure was used to obtain the sample (40 homeless and 40 non-homeless). An exploratory study provided some verification for the connection between Place-identity and homelessness and directed the methodology. A structured interview format was used with the instrument for the main inquiry being devised through a collaborative process with input from the researcher, administrative personnel and homeless youth. Fndings consolidate the importance of Place-Identity theory and the role places potentially have in promoting a sense of self and in maintaining self-equilibrium. An appreciation of the perceptions held of the original and current home environments by the two groups (homeless/non-homeless) suggests that it is the home that has the potential to contribute substantially to self identity. Links are made with Korpela (1989) and Kaplan (1983) demonstrating how the current home environment can reduce the impact of prior negative experiences in the original home. This finding stimulates the development and extrapolation of tentative models of Place-Identity clarifying the role of the home in creating a sense of self and maintaining self-equilibrium whilst emphasizing the importance of Promoting active self-regulation particularly pertaining to privacy and socialization. The most salient feature being the way in which these two latter qualities are stimulated by the design of homes and how they impact on self-identity. From these models an appreciation of the role of the original home as a possible causative factor for homelessness is acknowledged and importantly suggestions as to how the current home can potentially 'break' the homeless cycle proposed. The ramifications of this research extend primarily into the areas of counselling and design with the information obtained being useful for youth workers, school counsellors, parents and all concerned with youth. There are also implications for designers and architects suggesting that more conducive environments emerge from a collaborative process which encourages a shared conception of place needs. Future research is needed to broaden an understanding of the homeless group by incorporating greater numbers to include a more extensive coverage of the three types of accomodation (short, medium and long term) and those 'on the streets'. Developmental influences on Place-Identity are intimated and also warrant further investigation. This research stimulates questions about the influence of places throughout the various stages of life. It creates a foundation for determining how the physical environment can be restorative for other alienated groups in society such as those in prisons, hospitals and refuges. It also lends itself to an exploration of cultural influences such as Aboriginality and Place-Identity where such information might assist integration in a similar way as a knowledge of Place-Identity might for the homeless. It is hoped that this research might prove instrumental in impacting on policy related to accommodation services for the homeless, promote an increased understanding of this issue and lead to a continuing interest in the promotion of self-identity through the physical environment.