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Crowding in the residential environment Howard, Barbara Jean

Abstract

High density — in the form of overcrowding of dwelling units, or the number of people or dwelling units per acre — has traditionally been regarded as a leading factor in the environment which brings about pathology and social disorganization of all kinds. The purpose of this study is to promote a clearer understanding of the response of the individual to high density in the residential environment in terms of behavior and health. The study is based on a review and critical examination of the literature concerning (a) previous investigations of the effects of high residential densities (correlational and epidemiological studies, extent and kind of social interaction, satisfaction, and family life), as well as (b) related research (animal studies, experimental investigations of the human effects of high densities, and the human use of space). The integration of these findings indicates an overall lack of rigorous scientific evidence concerning the adverse effects of high density on human behavior and health. Conceptual analysis of this evidence, however, indicates that the human effects of high densities appear to depend mainly on: (a) social aspects of the situation or environment, (b) personal attributes or characteristics of the individual, (c) cultural norms, (d) the type of activity involved, (e) temporal duration (i.e., length of exposure), and (f) physical factors in addition to density variables. The study also includes a review of recent theoretical perspectives concerning the relationship between high densities, pathology and social disorganization. The bulk of these perspectives rely on the concept of stress as a link between high densities and potentially adverse consequences for the individual. A functional discussion of present stress knowledge is followed by the description of a Conceptual Model of Crowding in the Residential Environment, which is suggested as a theoretical framework for future research on the effects of high residential densities. The conceptual model is based on Stokols1 Equilibrium Model of Human Response to Crowding (Stokols, 1972), which has been modified somewhat and applied to the residential environment. The concluding chapter suggests that performance standards, based on the behavior-contingent approach to the designed environment, are necessary criteria for the evaluation of high density residential development in order to avoid undue stress on the part of the individual.

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