Month: February 2016

Childhood Places

Childhood Places

Posted on 10:48 am by julieblum. Filed under Uncategorized.

When studying Place Attachment as an academic subject, one of the first aspects of the person-place bond that becomes obvious is the profound influence of childhood experiences on the place-attachment bonds that form later in life. These influences from childhood take on many forms, and are based on varying types of direct and indirect experiences.

For example, if a child spends many happy hours playing in a tree house in her back yard, that child is likely to develop positive associations, and a particular fondness for tree houses, and trees, for the rest of her life. Positive associations may simply evolve due to hours of enjoyment, but will be significantly strengthened if the tree house also served as a refuge during times of emotional pain and turmoil with family and/or friends, or if meaningful and special moments unfolded in the tree house, such as a first kiss, a place from which special adventures launched, etc. The key point here is that as an adult, a person with positive associations with tree houses from childhood will find places with trees and tree houses more deeply appealing than the rest of us throughout their life!

Similarly, if a child has direct, negative experiences that occur in a particular type of landscape, that child may develop an aversion to similar landscapes. For example, a child who has traumatic experiences on a lakeside playground may well develop an aversion to playgrounds, to lakeside areas or to both. This may go so far as to significantly heighten the appeal to that person, later in life, of places that are nowhere near lakes, and with few playgrounds in the vicinity.

Another type of childhood experience that can have powerful influence over how we feel about places as we grow and develop is related to the stories we are told by important adults in our lives. The power of the narratives which we absorb as children can be very strong. This can be particularly significant for children of immigrants whose parents may tell beautiful stories about the place they came from, children whose parents have a robust ethnic or religious mythology that is tightly interwoven with stories of a sacred place, or simply children whose parents speak frequently and/or enthusiastically about places that they love or find appealing for any set of reasons. Children tend to internalize the loves and hatreds of their parents. If, for example, a child grows up in rural Kentucky, and her parents talk a lot about how much they love the hustle and bustle of the city, that child might be likely to develop a powerful affinity for Manhattan!

The bottom line here is that as adults, even though we may not have conscious awareness of the childhood associations that are influencing the way we feel about and relate to particular places, our childhood experiences of places can and do influence the way we feel in and about places we come in contact with later in life.

Below is a link to a song written and sung by Judy Collins that tells the story of intergenerational attachment bonds with places in a very beautiful way. Watch, listen, enjoy and please feel free to comment below!