Children's Friendship with Place: An Exploration of Environmental Child Friendliness of Children's Environments in Cities.

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Title: Children's Friendship with Place: An Exploration of Environmental Child Friendliness of Children's Environments in Cities.
Author: Chatterjee, Sudeshna
Advisors: Robin, C. Moore, Committee Chair
Abstract: The Child Friendly Cities is a concept for making cities friendly for all children especially in UN member countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (i.e., all except the United States) through municipal action. This idea is particularly important for improving the quality of life of poor urban children who are most affected by sweeping changes brought about by globalization and rapid urbanization in the developing nations of the global South. However, there is no theoretical understanding of a construct such as environmental child friendliness that could guide planning and design of child friendly environments in cities. Resulting from an integrative review of a large body of interdisciplinary literature, a new six-dimensional construct based on children's friendship needs, called children's place friendship, is proposed as underpinning environmental child friendliness from an environment-behavior perspective. The study disaggregates the idea of the child friendly city into numerous interlocking child friendly places that children themselves consider friendly based on their own experiences. These child friendly places support the six dimensions of place friendship in different ways: care and respect for places, meaningful exchange with places, learning and competence through place experience, creating and controlling territories, having secret places, and freedom of expression in places. An in-depth analytic ethnography was conducted in a low-income, high-density, mixed-use neighborhood in New Delhi, India, with children in their middle-childhood to validate and elaborate this conceptual framework. The chosen context provided a homogeneous Muslim base, large numbers of children and youth, ready access to fieldwork and several diverse socio-physical settings. The study used four kinds of data: interviews, observations, journals kept by children, and archival documents and records. The places most recommended by children under each of the six dimensions were studied to find out the meanings of these places for children by analyzing the physical environmental attributes, nature of production of the places in the city, and actualization of socio-physical affordances by children. The findings of this study suggest that most child friendly places were easily accessible in the local area of the children's neighborhood. The large range of places (199 places recommended under six dimensions by thirty-one children) is categorized in twelve place typologies. Most child friendly places (34%) belong to the typology of local formal open spaces such as designed parks and playgrounds. Children respected, cared for and loved these places for being well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing environments. Children also chose local formal open spaces for action affordances. The study reveals the socially constructed nature of care and respect for places in the context of the low-income Muslim neighborhood. Local informal open spaces allowed children to claim and own space more easily than formal open spaces, to freely express themselves, as well as to seek out secret places. However, in relation to learning, though children themselves recommended places of symbolic value such as monuments, the study found that children who participated in the practices of everyday, learned as apprentices from the diverse settings in their local area. Analysis of the patterns of place friendship in the new place typology suggests that instead of considering six dimensions of place friendship, four dimensions are sufficient to account for the range of children's friendly interactions with places. A generic typology of child friendly places is proposed using the reduced set of four dimensions. This provides a tangible framework for child friendly city strategies both for the creation of child friendly places, as well as for evaluation of environments specifically created for children.
Date: 2006-08-17
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Design

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