To exemplify the ways in which our perspective shapes problems of relevance for contextual aspects of environment behavior research, we now complement previous mention of our studies with a more comprehensive description of our work on six problems. These six problems (three treating the general contexts of the person and three of the environment) are as follows: onset of diabetes (physical context of person); changes in experience and action related to psychiatric hospitalization (psychological context of person); transition to parenthood (socio-cultural context of person); urban contexts for children (physical context of environment); protection against AIDS in sexual situations (interpersonal context of environment); and experience and action in the context of automobile driving before and after mandatory legislation (sociocultural context of environment).
Onset of Diabetes (Physical Context of Person)
Relevant here is a study by Collazo (1985) that examined the transition from health to illness as exemplified in the onset of diabetes (specific physical context within the general physical context of the person). His focus was on analyzing a number of relations between the focal person and other parts of her or his person-in-environment system. Most relevant here, Collazo has identified: (1) relations between one's biological and psychological contexts as influenced by changes in the metabolism of sugar;
(2) transactions with physical contexts of the environment (e.g., unwillingness to move beyond the physical context of the home community because of concern for the availability of insulin supplies);
(3) relations with the interpersonal contexts of the environment (e.g., fear of getting married, dependence on others); and (4) relations to the sociocultural context (e.g., changes in values and behavior of the individual related to culturally defined attitudes toward the sick).
Changes Associated with Psychiatric Hospitalization (Psychological Context of Person)
An example relevant to the general psychological context of the person may be found in our study (Demick, Peicott, & Wapner, 1985) of patients on an addictions treatment unit of a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts. A variety of tests (e.g., covering rules and regulations, mental illness attitudes, expectations concerning length of stay) were administered on six test occasions: 1 to 2 days after admission; 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 weeks later, immediately prior to discharge. Changes in many contextual aspects of self-world relations occurred: specifically during the stressful transition periods of entering and leaving the hospital setting (with the most potent changes occurring with the more immediate changes in the physical context, i.e., immediately following admission and immediately preceding discharge) and, more generally, over the course of hospitalization within the psychological context of the person (in the direction of less denial and thus less rigid differentiation between person and environmental, or self and world, contexts).
Transition to Parenthood (Sociocultural Context of Person)
Extensive consideration of the sociocultural context of the person with respect to role is readily illustrated in our work on family transitions, for example, the transition to parenthood. Wapner (1993) has presented an analysis of parental development, giving consideration to why people become parents, stages of parenthood (e.g., Demick, in press; Galin-sky, 1981), and specific issues such as divorce, step-parenthood, adoption, and child abuse.
For example, the question of why people want to become parents may be readily answered by considering our elaborated concept of context. That is, potential reasons may include factors related to the physical context of the person (e.g., age, physical maturity), the psychological context of the person (e.g., expansion and enhancement of one's self-concept), the sociocultural context of the person (e.g., fulfilling and/or validating one's social role), the physical context of the environment (e.g., adding positively to the human population); the interpersonal context of the environment (e.g., creating a family, power and/or influence); and the sociocultural context of the environment (e.g., fulfilling the values of one's society).
Urban Contexts for Children (Physical Context of Environment)
Wapner (1998) has identified several features of our approach with particular relevance for the design of urban contexts for children. These include: (1) the child as an active organism who constructs a psychological context that is distinguished from the physical, geographic context; (2) the child as capable of multiple intentionality, that is, the capacity in his or her experience to shift back and forth among different contexts (person, environment); (3) the child as an inhabitant of multiple physical contexts or worlds; and (4) the child as an organism with a variety of means or instrumentalities such as conceptual systems, tools, and/or body parts (psychological context of person) to accomplish ends.
Based on these assumptions, Wapner has recommended that the design of urban contexts for children include the following goals: (1) to provide optimal environmental contexts (physical, interpersonal, sociocultural) matched to the contexts of the child for promoting her or his physical, mental, and social development; and (2) to optimize the transactions (experience and action) of the child with the physical, interpersonal, and sociocultural contexts of the environment. This latter goal might involve providing both general and specific (person and environmental) contexts that foster development of the ideal differentiated and hierarchically integrated person-in-environment system state. This state is conceptualized as involving control over self-world relations, greater salience of positive affective states, diminution of isolation, anonymity, helplessness, and depersonalization, coordination of short- and long-term goals and planning processes, and movement toward a unity of overt and covert actions.
Demick, Hoffman, and Wapner (1985) have supported such conceptualization through their work on the ways in which one's immediate physical context or neighborhood (part) varying in quality impacts one's experience of a larger physical context (city as a whole) with implications for urban renewal. In a related manner, Demick (in press) has more recently applied such conceptualization to the person-in-environment experience of those children who were adopted (psychological context of person). That is, those who experience an open adoption (communication between birth and adoptive parents) may exhibit a heightened awareness of the physical context of the environment (fearing intrusion, etc.). These and other relationships are currently under investigation.
Protection Against AIDS (Interpersonal Context of Environment)
Drawing from our work on the relations between experience and action, two studies are relevant here. First, Ferguson, Wapner, and Quirk (1993) asked college students to report on specific sexual situations (interpersonal context of environment) in which they "did not do what they wanted to do" and situations in which they "did do what they wanted to do" with respect to protection against the sexual transmission of HIV. Responses were categorized in our developmental terms as follows: (1) de-differentiated (e.g., "I was so aroused at that point that I didn't worry about HIV"); (2) differentiated and isolated (e.g., "I do everything except that because it decreases my chances of contracting HIV"); (3) differentiated and in conflict (e.g., "She insisted that I not use a condom, so I didn't against my will"); and (4) differentiated and hierarchically integrated (e.g., "I use protection because I am aware of the consequences of unprotected sex . . . protected sex is of utmost importance"). Findings indicated that, when individuals reported specific contexts in which they "did what they wanted to," differentiated and hierarchically integrated responses were most frequent; when they reported specific contexts in which they "did not do what they wanted to do," their responses were characteristically less advanced (i.e., de-differentiated, differentiated, and in conflict).
On the basis of these data, Clark (1995) introduced three interventions to change unsafe behavior in such sexual contexts: (1) providing information about the HIV/AIDS disease and how the virus is transmitted; (2) providing information on how HIV/AIDS is transmitted as well as accounts from Ferguson et al. (1993) of actions when "they did what they wanted to do" and when they "did not do what they wanted to do"; and (3) providing information about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and a tailored imagery exercise (in which they were asked to imagine the consequences of one of the accounts of reported unsafe behavior from which they were to assume that they had contracted HIV). Results indicated that, relative to those in the first two contexts, those in the third context (personalized treatment to decrease the psychological distance between the participant and the threat of
HIV/AIDS) reported a significantly greater frequency of practicing safe sex.
Culture and Automobile Driving (Sociocultural Context of Environment)
Relations between experience and action in the specific physical context of automobile driving were assessed in a series of studies. First, Rioux and Wapner (1986) conducted an experiential description and process analysis of individuals' experience in the context of automobile safety-belt usage in the United States (Massachusetts). The analysis led to the identification of individual differences in usage— namely, committed safety belt users (who, e.g., had relatives injured in accidents), nonusers (who, e.g., perceived automobiles as objects that could be fixed after accidents), and variable users (who used safety belts depending on the context, e.g., in rain and snow only).
Wapner, Demick, Inoue, Ishii, and Yamamoto (1986) then studied automobile safety belt experience and action prior to mandatory legislation in the context of two cultures, namely, Japan and the United States. Questionnaires to the three user groups in both cultures revealed differences in (1) factors preparing individuals for using safety belts (e.g., the Japanese placed higher value on safety belts than Americans); (2) specific triggers for using belts (e.g., feelings of preoccupation lead Americans, but not the Japanese, to forget to use belts); (3) action (e.g., the Japanese wore safety belts more often than Americans in the context of highway driving); and (4) experience of the action (e.g., relative to Americans, the Japanese felt "virtuous" but not "confident" when wearing safety belts).
Demick et al. (1992) assessed individuals' experience and action of safety belt usage prior to and following the initiation of mandatory safety belt legislation (sociocultural context of environment) in two cultural contexts: Japan (Hiroshima) and the United States (Massachusetts). These observations were complemented by Bertini and Wapner (1992) in a third cultural context, Italy (Rome). All three cultures exhibited the three user groups and increased usage with the introduction of a law. However, differential patterns of usage were obtained across the three cultures. In Japan, there was strong adherence to the law (immediately following legislation). In the United States, usage increased significantly immediately following the law; however, over time,
Massachusetts residents first voted to repeal the law because it interfered with individual freedom. Following this, even lower usage rates than before the law were observed (subsequently, the law was again put in force). In Italy, the degree of adherence to the mandatory safety belt law was almost negligible.
In a related program on age differences (21-94 years) in the physical context of automobile driving, Demick and Harkins (1999) have found that, of the numerous variables implicated in driving behavior (age, cognitive style, selective attention, personality), cognitive disembedding ability (cognitive style) was a better predictor of overall driving ability than was age. Such holistic research has attempted to tease apart factors affecting the person-in-environment system in the specific context of driving.
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