Sutcliffe, James (2018) “Nature is Part of Me and I’m Part of Nature”: Exploring How People Understand Their Relationships with Nature and How These Relationships Develop. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The research presented in this thesis aims to explore people’s current relationships with nature and how these relationships develop throughout their life time. It does so by taking a constructivist perspective.

In-depth interviews, involving three different tasks, were carried out with sixteen participants. Participants with a variety of different relationships with nature were recruited. The use of the Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) methods Rivers of Experience (RoE), Construct Elicitation and Laddering in the interviews allowed me to gain an understanding of both how people construe nature at present, as well as exploring how this construal of, and relationship with, nature has developed throughout their lives.

The key contributions to knowledge were that participants created narratives which drew upon the idea of nature being of higher importance than them, creating a narrative of spiritual relationships with nature. The findings also suggested the importance of learning and mental engagement with nature, in both people’s development of a relationship with nature, as well as their current relationship. The effect of nature on well-being was also discussed as part of the process of developing a relationship with nature. The level of human impact on nature was also of central importance to participants in the construction of different environments. Finally, the research provides a look at the different structures which the stories of their relationships with nature developing took.

In relation to the methods used, this research offers a contribution the literature by providing an example of approaches which can be taken to the analysis of RoE data. The analysis of the laddering data provides some support for viewing people’s construct systems as nests of meaning rather than hierarchical structures.

SUTCLIFFE FINAL THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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