Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Demographic and Psychosocial Features and Their Effects on the Survivors of the 1999 Earthquake in Turkey

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Demographic and Psychosocial Features and Their Effects on the Survivors of the 1999 Earthquake in Turkey

Article excerpt

A survey was conducted of 500 survivors of the 1999 earthquake in Turkey to investigate their levels of alienation and forms of preparedness for future disasters. It was found that the level of alienation in general is not very significant and that level of education is the most important influential independent variable. The only alienation component found to have a negative impact on the responsible behavior related to preparedness for earthquakes was the social isolation variable. As level of education increases and social isolation decreases, responsible behavior increases. The existence of little such research in developing societies like Turkey increases the importance of this work and it is expected that it will have a positive impact on similar future studies.

The August 1999 East Marmara earthquake in Turkey was the most devastating earthquake of the century. Nearly half a million families and around two million people were affected; the economy of the region almost collapsed and more than fifteen thousand people lost their lives. There are social and cultural time lags as well as economic and cognitive (knowledge) gaps that impede being aware of, and prepared for possible future risks or disasters.

Turkey is experiencing rapid socio-economic change and transition. High population growth and unintended urbanisation especially in big cities create deviant behavior and crime which recently have became a serious threat especially for the young members of the families. Although anomy is a common phenomenon in metropolitan cities, it does not result in a high suicide rate (SIS, 1999). One of the main reasons for this is the fact that in Islam suicide is not an acceptable behavior regardless of its cause. Islamic understanding and the prevailing elements of solidarity and support are still quite strong in various groups and levels in Turkey, as observed during and after the earthquake.

Although anomy and alienation share some basic features, the latter is a more comprehensive concept and was first used by K. Marx (1845-1846/1970) in a wider sense. Although it is the individual who feels alienated in capitalist society, the basic analytic concerns of Marx were the structural elements and processes of capitalism that cause alienation. According to Ritzer (1983, p.76), "contrary to the view of many interpreters who argue that he takes a socio-psychological approach, Marx basically offered a theory of alienation rooted in social structure". A more operational typology of alienation is provided by Melvin Seeman (1959): Powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, social and cultural estrangement. It would not be wrong to interpret normlessness as being the situation of anomy. The latter thus becomes a sub-component of alienation.

Although the original research was more comprehensive and detailed, this paper primarily aims to define and to understand the level of alienation of respondents who were deeply affected by the 1999 East Marmara Earthquake in Turkey. The impacts of these factors on responsible behavior, locus of control, and verbal commitment are also investigated.


The household was the sample unit and 250 households were selected according to stratified random-sampling techniques. Each province was included in the sample according to its population density. In short, proportional stratified sampling was applied and principally two people from each household were included (one man and one woman) with 500 people interviewed. The sample houses were also carefully selected from prefabricated cities to reflect the differentiation of the population. In other words, if the wage earners or blue-collar workers are located in certain prefabricated cities, with a careful design of the sample, these people are also covered. In the first group of answers, respondents provided basic information about background variables such as gender, age, education, ownership of house and employment and security status. …

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