A study conducted in 20 districts of East Java Province revealed that open defecation in communities near-water bodies was difficult to intervene in due to a lack of motivation to change. Using a constructivist perspective, this study investigated the views and experiences of individuals with open defecation habits in a riverside village to uncover the underlying reasons for their habits. To gather data, 15 riverside inhabitants who have been defecating in the river since childhood were interviewed, and field observations were conducted. The data were analysed using the Miles & Huberman model for the thematic analysis. The findings revealed that open defecation behaviour among riverside inhabitants was difficult to intervene in because it was associated with (1) social communication experiences; (2) socio-cultural factors; (3) individual attitudes; (4) economic constraints and household size; and (5) the physical environment. This study recommends tailoring sanitation promotion to community conditions and needs, involving community and religious leaders, and encouraging policymakers to protect rivers from industrial activity to improve behaviour change.

  • Views and experiences of individuals with open defecation (OD) reveal fundamental causes of OD issues.

  • To enhance latrine adoption and utilisation, it is imperative to consider the fundamental causes of OD when devising a sanitation promotion strategy.

  • Few studies have examined OD habits from an individual perspective, although it is useful for designing a tailored sanitation promotion strategy.

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