Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-31-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Systems - (Ph.D.)


Joint Program in Urban Systems

First Advisor

Karen A. Franck

Second Advisor

Barbara Caldwell

Third Advisor

Gary Steven Garetano

Fourth Advisor

Jeffrey Robert Backstrand


Currently little is known about the effects of noxious odor on people's daily lives. This lack of knowledge is apparent in the rules and regulations concerning odor. This dissertation addresses this lack of knowledge by looking at the effects of current noxious odor on residents' lives in three residential communities in northern New Jersey: West Caldwell, Newark's North Ward and Garfield- Lafayette in Jersey City. The research examines the coping process residents adopt to deal with this environmental annoyance.

In this study I explore two ways residents cope with odor: reactively (trying to keep the odor out of their homes) and proactively (taking actions to eliminate the source of odor). A model was developed to study the determinants of each of the two types of coping; both models include socioeconomic characteristics. The variables in the model for reactive coping include: perception of odor, community attachment, and physical reactions to the odor. The variables in the model for proactive coping include: knowledge of the correct agencies to contact concerning the odor, feelings of helplessness, and feeling of hopelessness, in addition to the predictors in the model for reactive coping. Reactive coping is measured by: residents' daily activities to avoid the odor and their desire to move away. Proactive coping is measured by: contacting anyone to complain about the odor and contacting the correct agencies.

Data was obtained from in-person interviews with residents in the three communities and site observations. The sample of residents interviewed consists of 90 respondents, which includes male (n=33) and female (n=67) residents over the age of 24 of diverse ethnic backgrounds (white, African American and Hispanic). The majority of respondents (81%) smelled the odor. Of those who smelled the odor (n=73), 61 respondents tried to eliminate the odor from their homes and 23 respondents considered moving away due to the odor. Less than half of the respondents who smelled the odor knew about the correct agencies to contact regarding the odor (40%); 39% of the respondents contacted someone and 26% of the respondents contacted the correct agencies. The multivariate regression analysis revealed that perception of odor and physical reactions are needed to engage in the coping behavior of trying to keep the odor out of their homes. Considering moving away is only affected by perception of odor. Three variables showed a significant relationship with the proactive coping outcome of contacting anyone about the odor: perception of odor, problem solving, and feeling helpless or hopeless. The variables affecting the likelihood that a resident contacted the correct agencies are: perception of odor, feeling helpless or hopeless, knowledge of the correct agencies and feelings of attachment.

The results suggest that ethnicity plays an important role in the way residents react to noxious odor and that odor regulation policies and procedures are largely unknown among respondents. Concerning types of coping, the results indicate that physical reactions to odor affect reactive coping behaviors but they are not necessary for considering moving away or for either of the two proactive coping outcomes.



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