The psychological importance of your neighbourhood

The psychological importance of your neighbourhood

I live in a neighbourhood. I imagine you do too. When I look out my windows I see trees, bushes, and grasses. I reckon those views are good for my health - mental and physical.

If I look farther I see the houses of my neighbours and beyond that downtown Armidale, New South Wales.

I live on a cul-de-sac that goes down a steep hill. I am a hill person.

My house is midway down the cul-de-sac, and I am midway in socio-economic status among the neighbours.

Above me are physicians, a small-business owner, and the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, unless he has moved.

There are a few others up there too, but I do not know anything about them.

I like my neighbours - the higher ones and the lower. They don't make noise when I am sleeping or let their dogs run free.

They take care of their front yards. I rarely smell wood smoke.

I may be the scourge of the neighbourhood because I park on the street. Well, no one is perfect.

One of the neighbour kids and his cousin knocked over and broke my mailbox, laughing as they ran away. That was not perfect.

A neighbourhood is important, especially for children. Children tend to adopt the behaviour of the others in the neighbourhood.

A tense neighbourhood tends to produce tense individuals. A violent neighbourhood produces trouble - for everyone. A peaceful neighbourhood is ideal.

Years ago, I lived in a well-to-do urban neighbourhood in Southern Florida.

There were always kids vandalising property. The school a block away had signs out about meetings to raise parent awareness of gangs.

Once I saw from my Florida house window a teen boy kissing a girl in front of my house while he peeled off the letters on a street sign.

I went out and asked him to stop peeling.

He said he wasn't peeling anything. A few months later I saw him in handcuffs after he was caught vandalising the community pool.

I sometimes sauntered through Florida neighbourhoods where each house was a McMansion surrounded by huge lawns.

When visiting New York City and seeking a thrill, I walked across a dodgy neighbourhood called Hell's Kitchen.

I walked very fast. In Arizona, I once lived in a gated community, with no riff-raff allowed to enter.

Neighbourhoods certainly vary. To some extent we make a neighbourhood. To some extent it makes us.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story The psychological importance of your neighbourhood first appeared on The Canberra Times.