Understanding Children's Environments: The Effect of Outdoor Physical Environments on Children's Activities and Quality of Life Within Al-Wihdat Palestinian Refugee Camp and Environs in Amman, Jordan

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Title: Understanding Children's Environments: The Effect of Outdoor Physical Environments on Children's Activities and Quality of Life Within Al-Wihdat Palestinian Refugee Camp and Environs in Amman, Jordan
Author: Al-Khalaileh, Eyyad Ahmad
Advisors: Robin C. Moore, Committee Chair
Abstract: This dissertation examines children's experiences of growing up in urban environments based on research conducted in Amman, Jordan. This dissertation represents the most recent addition to the Growing Up in Cities (GUIC) programme and was preceded by three workshops and an international conference in Amman, Jordan, during 2002 and 2003. The purpose of this dissertation is twofold: (1) to understand if the existing outdoor spaces support or limit everyday children's activities and experiences, necessary for healthy development, within low-material resource neighbourhood in Amman, Jordan; and (2) to reflect on whether the Growing Up in Cities (GUIC) participatory research model is appropriate and applicable to the MENA region. The dissertation focuses on the role of the physical environment in development, specifically the role of neighbourhood outdoor spaces in supporting the everyday activities that are important for normal, healthy development. Two components of children's everyday activity are important keys to understand the role of neighbourhood spaces: (1) explorative outdoor environments, and (2) participatory, supportive social networks. The unit of analysis was children 10 to 14 years of age living in the Al-Wihdat refugee camp and environs of Amman, Jordan. The research methods applied in this case study include field informal observations (fields notes and photographic); interviews (with participating children, schools and public officials); children's drawings (cognitive maps), and child-taken photographs. The results of the study indicate that the methods adopted are useful in identifying a wide variety of issues that are important to children through their views, opinions and perceptions. These range from macro issues such as pollution, politics, crime, traffic, development and improvement and safety through to micro issues such, friendships, family relation, watching television, praying, and outdoor activities. The methods have also highlighted differences and commonalties among the boys and girls views, opinions and perceptions of the outdoor environment. The dissertation results indicated that the outdoors physical environment does not provide the children with reasonably viable explorative outdoor environments. The data show that the existing outdoor spaces and facilities have far more limitations and constraints than the benefits intended to provide for children users. The dissertation illustrated much stronger supportive social network to compensate for the lack of supportive physical environment. The children views and opinions are mostly about societal and group issues. The trend in the relative importance of the children's views moves from the collective to the individual. The research indicated that there is a clear divide between boys and girls' outdoors spaces, which mean outdoor environment is gendered. While the boys dominated the public spaces, girls retreated to places with home sites. In comparison, the gender theme was not a critical issue in the previous GUIC studies. In conclusion, the dissertation proposed a series of general and policy specific recommendations to improve the children outdoor urban environment in Jordan. The proposed recommendations of this research are in the area of policy on children's well being and the environmental quality of outdoor spaces. To achieve these recommendations, changes and/or improvement to Jordan's national public policies on children well being, must be implemented.
Date: 2004-11-29
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Design
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/4512

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