Level of specialization and place attachment: An exploratory study of whitewater recreationists

K. S. Bricker, Deborah Lee Kerstetter

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454 Scopus citations


Level of specialization among whitewater recreationists and their attachment to a popular whitewater recreation river in the western United States, the South Fork of the American River, were investigated. Level of specialization was based on individuals' response to a specialization index consisting of 21 different items theoretically linked to level of specialization. Three levels of specialists were identified. Further, dimensions within level of specialization were analyzed to determine their relationship to each place attachment dimension. Attachment was measured by means of a place attachment scale (Moore and Graefe, 1994; Williams and Roggenbuck, 1989). Using principal-components analysis, three place attachment dimensions were identified and named: place dependence, place identity, and lifestyle. A relationship was noted between level of specialization, subsequent dimensions, and place attachment dimensions (i.e., experience level, centrality to lifestyle, involvement, skill level, and expenditure level). High specialists were more likely to agree with the importance of place identity and lifestyle than were medium and low specialists. Place dependence was not influenced by level of specialization. When controlling for type of boater (i.e., rafter or kayaker) and type of trip (i.e., private, nonprofit, or commercial), rafters' level of agreement with the place identity dimension increased with level of investment, centrality, and experience, regardless of type of trip. And, rafters' level of agreement with the lifestyle dimension increased with their level of experience, regardless of type of trip. Overall, however, the results of this study indicated that respondents were relatively neutral about their dependence on the river, with the exception of kayakers with low centrality and experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-257
Number of pages25
JournalLeisure Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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