Residential and neighborhood open spaces are more than a simple space. They are the most important places for people living in urban areas and are part of their sense of living. The literature of neighborhood environments has always been attempting to describe neighborhoods in terms of the criteria of their overall quality. Social and individual attachment are two major factors having an important effect on the overall quality of residents’ lives. Psychological and sociological aspects of people’s behavior in these spaces are addressed in the disciplines of environmental psychology and sociology. These two knowledge areas have evolved with development of new methods and knowledge improvements. In these two disciplines, different and almost independent, sometimes contradicting, theories have been proposed to in a complementary way. Finding a relationship between the proposed theories in these two fields is rarely considered. Investigating one of the most important concepts in environmental psychology, i.e. place attachment, and using this concept to improve social life of residential neighborhoods, this paper tries to establish a link between these separate disciplines. Most studies conducted on place attachment and meaning of place have been at the individual level addressing mostly individual emotions and experiences. Also, in the social domain, only social emotions and experiences have been discussed. Focusing on social participation and place attachment, this research first tries to show the complexity and multi-dimensionality of these concepts and then attempts to from a framework for social planning in common areas like residential open spaces.
Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), as a vigorous regressive multivariate analysis technique, is used to examine the hypotheses in this research. SEM is a multivariate statistical analysis technique suitable for analyzing structural relationships. Its ability to define relationships between unobserved constructs (latent variables) and observable variables has made it a common justified method in social sciences. In the modeling method here, we use SEM that allows complex relationships between one or more independent variables and one or more dependent variables.
Based on the findings, place attachment and participation have a significant impact on social capital. The direct correlation between participation and social capital is stronger than that of place attachment, showing higher significance of participation in affecting social capital. Participation has also a great impact on place attachment.
Place attachment is a complex process that significantly affects social factors. It spreads and gets shaped over time. It is not only the place, but also social relationships produced in that place that support the maintenance and development of local community relations. Places are formed by individuals, groups and neighborhoods, and neighborhood groups are shaped by their place. According to this research, certain places with a strong sense of identity, higher communication, social capital and collective actions such as participation create a higher sense of attachment in the residents.