Interpersonal and Social Values Conflict among Coastal Recreation Activity Groups in Hawaii

By Tynon, Joanne F.; Gomez, Edwin | Journal of Leisure Research, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Interpersonal and Social Values Conflict among Coastal Recreation Activity Groups in Hawaii


Tynon, Joanne F., Gomez, Edwin, Journal of Leisure Research


In Hawaii, coastal environments such as beaches and coral reefs are focal points for recreation. Residents, and more than 80% of Hawaii's visitors, engage in recreation activities in the state's coastal and marine areas, with the majority of visitors participating in diving (200,000 per year) or snorkeling (3 million per year) (Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, 2002; VanBeukering & Cesar, 2004). Other popular coastal recreation activities include swimming, sunbathing, beach walking, surfing, and ocean kayaking. The purpose of this paper is to report on the extent to which user conflicts exist both within and among various recreation activity groups at select Hawaiian beaches and to compare the extent to which evaluations of coastal recreation conflicts differ among groups (e.g., residents vs. nonresidents). This information can be used to help understand current recreation users at coastal sites in Hawaii.

Recreation Conflict and Behavioral Responses

Conflict is one indicator of social carrying capacity in recreation and tourism settings. Empirical research has revealed several different types of conflict that can occur between people participating in similar or different types of outdoor recreation (see Graefe & Thapa, 2004; Manning, 1999 for reviews). One-way or asymmetrical conflict occurs when one activity group experiences conflict with or dislikes another group, but not vice versa. A study of snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, for example, showed that skiers disliked encounters with snowmobilers, but snowmobilers were not in conflict with skiers (Vaske, Needham, & Cline, 2007). Two-way conflict occurs when there is resentment or dislike in both directions (e.g., skiers in conflict with snowboarders, snowboarders in conflict with skiers; Thapa & Graefe, 2003; Vaske, Carothers, Donnelly, & Baird, 2000). Conflict between users engaged in different activities (e.g., hikers vs. mountain bikers) is known as out-group conflict, whereas conflict between participants in the same activity (e.g., hikers vs. other hikers) is known as in-group conflict (Manning, 1999).

Most recreation and tourism studies have examined interpersonal or goal interference conflict where the actual physical presence or behavior of an individual or group interferes with goals, expectations, or behavior of another individual or group (Vaske et al., 2007). A snorkeler, for example, may experience interpersonal conflict if he or she is cut off by or collides with a surfer. Recent research has also introduced and explored the concept of social values conflict (Vaske, Donnelly, Wittmann, & Laidlaw, 1995; Vaske et al., 2007). Social values conflict occurs between groups who do not share similar opinions, norms, or values about an activity. Unlike interpersonal conflict, social values conflict is defined as conflict that can occur even when there is no direct physical contact or interaction among groups (Vaske et al., 2007). For example, although encounters with horseback riders may be rare in recreation settings such as urban parks, recreationists may philosophically disagree about the appropriateness of such animals in these settings. A study of wildlife viewers and hunters showed that viewers did not witness many hunters or hunting behaviors (e.g., see animals shot, hear shots fired) in a backcountry area because management regulations, rugged terrain, and topography separated the two groups (Vaske et al., 1995). Despite this, viewers still reported conflict with hunters simply because of a conflict in values regarding the appropriateness of hunting in the area.

To differentiate social values and interpersonal conflict, studies have operationalized conflict by combining responses from two sets of questions asked in surveys of recreationists (Vaske et al., 1995; Vaske et al., 2007). First, individuals indicated how frequently events happened to them during their visit (e. …

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