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Platser för lek, upplevelser och möten: Om barns rörelsefrihet i fyra bostadsområden
Stockholm University, The Stockholm Institute of Education, Department of Social and Cultural Studies in Education .
2005 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is the result of two studies concerning children’s independent mobility, which means the freedom for children to walk or bike on their own or together with friends but without being escorted by parents. The studies are accomplished in four different areas and are also searching for different environmental qualities. The areas differ concerning traffic planning and architecture but also concerning commercial and cultural choice. The aim is to understand and describe how places are constructed and designed when they are used and experienced in a positive – or a negative – way by children. I emphasize, that we – through the responses in meeting with other people – learn hidden and visible rules and also how to change perspective and roles. I therefore focus on the meeting between children and other people but also on meeting between children and places. The issue is: What do places look like – what qualities or qualifications – can be notified as important to children to perceive coherence that consequently make them learn to control their environment and develop to harmonious grown-ups. The main questions are: In what degree can children’s independent mobility be related to the planning and design in the four areas? Why do some neighbourhoods/places appear as more important to children than others, making children use them in a varied way? Is it possible to describe qualities in neighbourhoods in a way that can be interpreted as meaningful for children’s development?

In the first study 732 children in grade two and five in compulsory school, filled in a questionnaire and the questions focused on how they got to school, to friends, to activities etc. The results showed that in the area with more traffic than the other three areas, children were more often taken by car to school and to leisure activities. Even international research in the nineties did show that children had lost the accessibility to their neighbourhood. In the second study, 32 children in the same areas guided me around in their environment showing me the way to school and places they used to visit. At the same time they told me what they liked or disliked in their neighbourhood. Afterwards they were interviewed and they also had the opportunity to fill in so called “mobility maps”. The content in this text mainly focuses the second study. From the children’s statements, a summary of the most important differences looks as follows:

I The accessibility in neighbourhoods and places: i.e. children’s independent mobility – or if they had to be escorted by grown-ups – and if they could fiddle about.

II Children’s play and activities: i.e. if they had something to do, if they played in pairs or in groups and if play could take place without planning.

III Children’s experiences of places and people: i.e. if they had something to show me and to tell me, if there were any meetings with other persons, if the children talked about their own yard and appreciated green areas, if they had fun or not, if they were afraid being out and if they told me any memories from some places.

The theoretical framework is based on Johan Asplund’s theory on social responsivity and G. H. Mead’s theory on social relations and his view of the importance of objects. The study also is based on three different place theories as expressed by David Canter, Christian Norberg-Schulz and Clarence Crafoord and Asplund’s view of place and placelessness. This study has made it clear that everything children do in their neighbourhood can be related to concrete places and things but it differed concerning what and how they played, what they experienced and what the meetings looked like – if any.

Environmental qualities arise, as I have interpreted my results, when neighbourhoods and places are safe, when there are landmarks, places for meetings, possibility of orientation and sense of locality and when the places are varied and challenging. Conclusions are drawn regarding differences in social responsivity, if there is a sense of having a place of one’s own – that in the same time is shared by other people – and if places are responding. From these statements place identity can be seen as a merging of the qualities in places and the perceived sense of place as described above. To have opportunity to investigate the neighbourhood is also an important part of children’s informal learning. They learn how to read the surroundings and how to find the way in a town or in an environment. They get to know the neighbourhood and the world outside and so they also learn how to behave and how to control themselves and even the life. Results showed though that the children in the four areas made those experiences but, certainly, in different ways.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: HLS Förlag, 2005. , 217 p.
Studies in educational sciences, ISSN 1400-478X ; 1400-478X
Keyword [en]
children, independent mobility, place, social responsivity, play, accessibility, participant observations of environment, informal learning
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-425ISBN: 91-7656-593-9OAI: diva2:193717
Public defence
2005-05-13, Konradsbergsaulan, Lärarhögskolan, hus K, Rålambsvägen 24-30, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2005-04-21 Created: 2005-04-21 Last updated: 2014-01-28Bibliographically approved

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