Exploring the City - Children’s and Teens’ Relationship to Public Spaces
Directed by Nadja Monnet, Mouloud Boukala
Urban Trajectories and Posturing: The Place of Children and Teenagers in the Makeup of the City
Nadja Monnet, Mouloud Boukala
Research Framework : Many authors prefer to focus on the acrimonious relationship that exists between children and the city. This narrative is given as a story of eviction, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century, and the ubiquitous arrival of motorized traffic ; a phenomenon that has only accelerated over time. It is a radical separation between a before, which represents a golden age for children where the city revolved around them, and an after were children are represented as being shut in at home, forbidden from playing in the street and connected to the world via their smartphones and tablets. Despite this alarmist discourse, it is important to remember that children and adolescents continue to explore and socialize within their cities regardless of whether they are not (or are no longer) in the majority.
Objectives : This introductory article to “Exploring the City : Children and Adolescents’ Relationship with Public Spaces” is designed to present the state of research as well as paths of reflection and innovative actions on how children and adolescents experience the city, the way they act and how they are influenced by contemporary spaces.
Methodology : The introductory article is based on a review of work done in the fields of anthropology, history, geography, architecture and urban studies, all of which discuss the relationship between urban spaces and children and adolescents. This analysis is juxtaposed by ongoing projects that ask the opinions of youths to establish a consensus-building approach to urbanism and urban redevelopment in cities, metropolises and megacities.
Results : By including all age groups (children and adolescents) as well as the types of spaces that are generally kept separate, the articles presented herein ask us to consider several important aspects including : the presence of youths in urban spaces, the standardization, regulation and gamification of certain public spaces ; the appeal of closed spaces (interiors, shopping centres) and their appropriation ; the practise of physical activities ; autonomous mobility ; the interest in digital media and familial injunctions to assess the influence of parents and siblings on the relationships that young people have with the city.
Conclusions : This article focuses on the necessity of taking an intersectional approach that considers a broad range of variables including gender, age and socio-geographical origin, race in particular, to analyze the relationships between children and adolescents and public spaces. Here we reveal the importance of the passage between interior spaces (homes, schools, youth homes, recreational centres, etc.) and exterior spaces, whether the exploration of streets, parks, gardens and shopping malls remains possible as well studying the relations and tension that exist between families and children, between youths and the managers of these spaces, between youths with and without adult supervision and between youths and adult users of public spaces as both actors and witnesses.
Contribution: This article takes a look at the societal and anthropological issues that affect the relationship between public spaces and children and teens in over a dozen cities located in Europe, North America, Northern Africa and the Middle East. It identifies paths of exploration and paths of implementation on this topic.
Between Distrust, Cautiousness and Politeness : Parents Teaching Children How to Behave in the Public Spaces of Paris and Milan
Research framework : As of yet, a limited amount of research has analysed the role played by parents in regulating children’s access to urban public space.
Objectives : This article aims to describe the process of children’s city socialization. Its objective is to enrich the interactionist approach to public behaviour by highlighting its socio-genesis. The particular focus of this study is how norms of self-presentation, ways of behaving and perceptions of danger, are taught.
Methodology : The analysis relies on a doctoral dissertation focusing on parental supervision of children’s mobility and their activities in public spaces. The data mainly consists of in-depth interviews (n =78) conducted with parents living in two socially mixed areas of Paris (France) and Milan (Italy).
Results : Parents appear to provide ambivalent instruction regarding the transmission of interaction and traffic rules as they are often accompanied by a certain disrespect for these same rules by other urbanites. The instructions transmitted to children are partly differentiated depending on the gender of the child as the presence girls in urban public space appears to be more tightly controlled than that of boys.
Conclusions : The article helps articulate the “interaction order” (Goffman, 1983) of daily parental educational practices. It sheds light on the impact of transmitting gendered norms on children’s perceptions and practices of urban space.
Contribution : The description of the main contents of children’s city socialization processes makes an empirical contribution to the knowledge of children’s discovery of contemporary urban societies.
To What Extent Are Teenage Girls Cycling Less Because of Fewer Opportunities to Move Freely in Public Spaces? A Sociological Survey in the Varied Environments of Montpellier and Strasbourg
Research framework: Cycling practices are underpinned by considerable environmental, health and economic challenges. Despite this, teenage girls seem to be cycling far less.
Objectives: This article studies the extent to which this is the result of a gendered inequality when it comes to the opportunity to move freely within public spaces.
Methodology: We conducted a dispositionalist analysis based on observation campaigns (direct experimentation and observation) and formal semi-directive interviews conducted with 43 boys and 39 girls aged 17 to 18, as well as 26 of their parents, in the varied environments of Montpellier and Strasbourg.
Results: The results indicate that adolescence tends to be a period of incorporation and reinforcement of gendered dispositions toward free movement within public spaces and that this period is particularly restrictive for girls. The social injunctions of this group appears to contribute to a strengthening of their fear of travelling alone, a fear of venturing from home and a fear of public spaces which considerably limits the possibilities of engaging in forms of solitary, adventurous, improvised and “occupying” bicycle practices. This observation appears to be exactly the opposite however when it comes to boys.
Conclusions: By explaining many observable variations within each gender category and including socio-economic and residential backgrounds as well as context, we illustrate that cycling deserves to be analyzed as a distinct practice that is gendered, social and spatial.
Contribution: By taking a dispositionalist sociological approach, we reveal the (re)production of gender roles and the (re)production of inequalities of potential mobility to illustrate that cycling is a fully social fact.
The Use of Bicycles and Children’s Relationships with Public Space: The Permanence of “Gender Divisions” for Learning Devices in Strasbourg’s Disadvantaged Neighborhoods
Gilles Vieille Marchiset, Sandrine Knobé, Enno Edzard, Arnaud Piombini, Christophe Enaux
Research Framework: In France’s socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, physical activities, whether they be for travel or leisure, lag behind the rest of France. While many studies have analyzed physical and sporting activities among young people, and adults, the practices of children remain a blind spot. The experience of children growing up in impoverished areas, however, deserves a specific look, especially regarding their relationship with public space. From this perspective, we studied scientific literature that emphasizes the independent mobility and family constraints of girls in particular.
Objectives: Our approach questions gendered relationships with public space in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods and the use of bicycles by children between the ages of nine and ten.
Methodology: A team of sociologists and geographers followed six CM1classes in three primary schools located in some of Strasbourg’s more socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. For two of these groups, these children received specific training from municipal sports educators and from road safety educators. The third school served as a control group. Ad hoc questionnaires were sent to each school, before and after the bike learning courses, to study the development of their technical levels, their use of the bicycle in the neighborhoods and around the city, their cycling related relationships with friends and family.
Results: The results highlight a clear, gendered, and persistent differentiation, in terms of bike control, technical ease (in and out of their neighborhood) and the weight of a distinct socialization regarding gender related risks and family relationships.
Conclusions: For these children, there exists a persistent and specific use of public space when it comes to cycling and this division is essentially related to the gendered relational configuration of working class families.
Contribution: This study looks at how cycling is learned and it identifies the precautions taken when promoting cycling among boys and girls in public spaces. The promotion of cycling is essential for the purposes of travel, especially in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Safe Journeys to School: Perceptions of Road Risk for Parents and Children Involved in Trottibus, Quebec’s “Walking School Bus” Program
Sylvanie Godillon, Marie-Soleil Cloutier
Research Framework: In Western countries, the rate of children walking to school has been in steady decline since the late 1990s. This reduction has changed the relationship that children have with public spaces. To counter this decline, walking school bus programs such as Trottibus have been implemented to encourage children to walk to school. This program works in a similar manner to a bus route, but instead of taking a bus, children walk to school accompanied by adults who act as the “bus drivers”, supervising them on their way to school.
Objectives: These programs have been evaluated in the past, but little research has focused on differentiating the perceptions of parents and children. The objective of this article is to analyze the differences in perceptions of road risk between parents and children at the beginning of their involvement in Trottibus, the walking schoolbus program funded by the Canadian Cancer Society (CSC-Québec).
Methodology: Our methodology relied on a web-based, self-administered survey conducted with 189 parents and their children aged 5 to 11 years before their participation in the Trottibus program (or at the very beginning of the program).
Results: The results showed a greater sense of safety for children when walking in a pedestrian-friendly space and a greater confidence in other road users’ respect for pedestrians. According to parents, the Trottibus has educational benefits in terms of pedestrian mobility. Children and parents highlighted the social aspects of this program as being an outstanding.
Conclusions: The results provide a better understanding of children’s familiarity with school travel and their perceptions of road safety under various scenarios (walking on the sidewalk, crossing the street, playing on the street, etc.) as well as documenting differences between the expectations of parents and children.
Contribution: The accompaniment of children by adults questions how exploring the city (through the journey to school) can help children to become more independent. If parents are afraid to let their child walk from home to school alone at ages where independent mobility is experienced, children might not acquire the skills required to travel safely and experience public spaces in cities.
Toulouse’s Urban Public Spaces As Seen through The Eyes of its Youths: Means of Ownership, Use and Function
Sophie Ruel, Véronique Bordes, Philippe Sahuc, Gaëlle Boutineau
Research framework: Public open spaces offer a variety of configurations and environments that may be observed from different perspectives. For youths, this is a notion that includes a great diversity of profiles and that have been an important political and social issue in France since the 1980s. The public space used by France’s youths are suffering from an outdated approach to how the presence of youths is considered to be a problem that requires a solution.
Objectives: This text aims to explore the modes of appropriation and the functions and uses of Toulouse’s public spaces by young people aged 11 to 28. How are young people’s relationships to urban public space defined? How do these spaces make sense for them? What are their functions? How do young people appropriate and settle in these places? What purpose or use do they serve? What is at play here?
Methodology: These questions will be examined through the use of cartography and ethnographic observation to identify the issues raised by the presence of youths in urban public spaces. This paper presents the results of a study commissioned by Toulouse’s Town Council conducted from December 2012 to June 2013.
Results: The study has shown that the entire city area is affected by the presence of youths and that their use of urban public space, while never predefined, are the result of social construction processes in which youths play an active role.
Conclusions: Urban public spaces are, youths, a rich field for experimentation. They remain spaces of socialization where social relationships are built and where young people explore the public aspects of social life and that shape the conditions for their visibility.
Contribution: This text raises the question of youth, its image and what society wishes for young people. It also examines possible institutional insertion of youths into urban public spaces and makes an important contribution to youth policy research.
Urban Sexism: Teens and Young Women in the City
Arnaud Alessandrin, Johanna Dagorn
Research Framework: This article revisits a recent survey conducted by Alessandrin, Franquet and Dagorn (2016) about women’s travels in the city.
Objectives: The objective of this article is to highlight the way teenagers and students use the city.
Methodology: This survey is based on 5,210 questionnaires, of which 13.8% of the respondents were minors and 51.3% were women aged 20 to 25 years. In addition to this methodological device, focus groups, exploratory walks and observations in the greater city area and its public spaces was investigated (Bordeaux and its agglomeration).
Results: This survey investigates the central notions of age and gender and apprehension about urban environments and travels in the city. While teenagers and young women say they feel comfortable in the city, they are the ones who are the most often the victims of sexist attacks, discrimination and harassment in public spaces.
Conclusions: In conclusion, this article highlights the use the city and it investigates the urban climate as perceived teens and young women. It also encourages a differentiation between ‘students’ and ‘high school students’ and it strongly questions the social spaces of youth in the expression of sexist phenomena.
Contribution: Based on recent empirical data and extensive quantitative research, this research sheds light on the relationship of girls to the city in a context of social and political discussion around the notion of « harassment ».
Recapturing Beirut for the Benefit of Children and Teenagers Via School Infrastructure
Research Framework: While Beirut may be best known for its Pine Forest (recently reopened to the public), the city remains sorely lacking public spaces. The few available places have, for the most part, been left fallow, and the small recreational spaces dedicated to children are rare. Young couples are slowly leaving the city (especially with the increase in the price of real estate) and it seems as if the city hast no interest in providing for its children and teenagers. The main interest appears to be attracting young people to its trendy neighborhoods and drawing tourists to its reconstructed downtown.
Objectives: This article is not intended to dwell on societal flaws. Beirut’s origins can be traced back centuries, so we choose to not analyze « the city as the place where solutions are invented ». Instead, we chose to consider the use of schools (which are only occupied for a few hours during the day) as recreational areas that can be put to use in the afternoon and during summer vacation?
Methodology: Based on the results of a doctoral research on school architecture in Lebanon, we identified the expectations of users from urban spaces. In this paper, we opted for a mixed methodology using a qualitative approach (semi-structured interviews conducted with players in the educational sector) as well as a quantitative approach (multiple case models).
Results: The opinions of principals, parents and students, some begrudgingly, showed there was a desire to make room for the younger generation in the city of tomorrow. However, sharing school spaces with the city raises the question of infrastructure security, deterioration, maintenance and cleanliness.
Conclusions: Opening the city to children and teenagers will lead not only to physical changes in the city, but also to a change in the habits and mentalities of local residents and decisionmakers.
Contribution: This article seeks to rethink the urban school landscape from a different perspective—by giving young people spaces that are rightly theirs.
Recrationals Sculptures of the 1970s in the Contemporary Playgrounds: to Play is Not Played
Research Framework: The question of the practices of the children in public space is often analyzed by a a sociology or environmental psychology point of view but and not by an urban or architectural entrance.
Objectives : This article ask the process of normalization of public places for children dedicated to the playful practices. The survey takes breast of the entertaining public places, by taking as study case the historic public play areas and the new playground of la Grande Borne.The design of this emblematic social housing project realized in France in the 1970s, bet on the interaction between the child and the city in order to design « a city where a child would be the prince » (Aillaud, 1972).
Methodology : In order to understand the practices of children, twenty-one semi-directive interviews were conducted within the leisure center of the investigated districts. To identify the modalities of conception of the urban project, eleven semi-directive interviews with project owners (designers and administrators) were realized. In addition, an archival survey was conducted.
Results : Today in renovation, the historic play area are the subject to normalization. The evolution of the representations of the child in the public place and its uses since the point of view of the designers and the administrators of places. The industrialization of the entertaining public places underlies a normative politics as well practices as forms of the space in the optics to minimize all the possible dangers. What is left of the play ?
Conclusion : The conclusions of this article point that the part of the designer is not any more to accompany the children in their process of learning of the dangers to favor their emancipation, as aspired Émile Aillaud. Nevertheless to register it in an approach of socialization which aims at minimizing the dangers incurred as well by the children as by the designers or the administrators, questioning then the potential of play of the operations and their « hidden » socio-urban roles.
Contribution : Questioning the socio-urban meaning of the playful spaces dedicated to children contributes to the new social studies of childhood (Holloway and Valentine, 2000) which report on new visibilities of children in the public place.
The Shopping malls of Rabat: the Public Spaces “by default” for the Young Teenagers
Research Framework: Due to their offer and their spatial configuration, shopping malls in Morocco attract heterogeneous crowds, including the young people and the teenagers who make practices there remember the public places of the city
Objectives : The contribution studies the social practices and the images which associate the young people and particularly the teenagers with the commercial spaces as new places of meeting and sociability
Methodology : The work combines interviews realized with around thirty young people and teenagers and observations concerning their social practices made in some malls of Rabat
Results : The contribution shows how this malls is the object of images and strong representations which these young and teenagers associated previously with the public places of the capital. They set up themselves, for them, as of new public places where the image, by, the virtual, the hedonism and the consumerism occupy a dominating place in their relationship to the urbanity
Conclusions : She shows that dimensions such as the safety, the animation, the consumption and the simulation are more and more preponderant elements in the report of the young people and the teenagers in the public places, justifying their appreciation in malls with regard to the traditional public places.
Contribution : Malls must be thought than what of the private, closed and trade places but more and more the supports of a new urbanity highlighting new reports in the city and in the public place.
"Tightrope Walker Parents": Between the Desire for a Child and the Desire to Foster, An Equilibrium to Negotiate in Quebec Foster Families
Ariane Boyer, Raphaële Noël
Research Framework: Every year in Quebec, thousands of children are supported by the Child Welfare Program following the endangerment of their safety or development. Within the foster care system, foster families welcome these children for varying periods of time and thus expose themselves to their departure. These foster parents who do not wish to adopt the children outright can’t be legally recognized as parents.
Objectives: This article is an inductive qualitative research that aims to explore the affective and psychological aspects of the foster parenting experience.
Methodology: Non-directive interviews were conducted with 10 parents from regular foster families. Each participant was met twice. An analysis was conducted on the verbatim transcripts and different categories were developed. The categories gleaned from this analysis are presented through an integrative model.
Results: Selflessness is predominant trait in the participants’ life trajectory. These people find themselves in a complex position of being both a parent and a non-parent to the children they foster. They express the difficulty of establishing a meaningful relationship with these children who may leave at any moment. They also discuss other important challenges regarding their relationship with the institution. Our results are discussed using the tightrope walker as an analogy for these parents in the integrative category as well as the concept of the desire to foster.
Conclusions: Our results identify the characteristics that led couples to foster vulnerable children and they describe the complexity inherent to the position of being a foster parent. The results also shed light on the precariousness of a relationship that oscillates between the desire to foster and the desire for a child.
Contributions: The present study contributes to a better understanding of the affective and psychological aspects of the foster parenting experience in Quebec. The necessity of specific support for foster parents is also raised.
« Je le voyais travailler comme un enfant chez son père » : minority, civil law and the monetarization of adolescence in rural Quebec, 1850-1900
Research framework : In the Quebec countryside of the latter 19th century, orphaned minors depended closely on what could be gleaned from their family inheritance and these financial rights sometimes led to litigation.
Objectives : The author examines three historical disputes to highlight two phenomena : 1) the consequences of early deaths on the legal relationships that structured lineages and, in particular, the choices made through marriage contracts and wills ; 2) the way in which people represented the cost of adolescents and the value of their contribution to the domestic economy. This cost versus value dichotomy was hotly debated during lawsuits over the accountability of guardianship.
Methodology : Taking a microsociological approach, this work considers the nature and intensity of intrafamilial obligations, the variability of family resources and the risks families faced.
Results : An early death could profoundly upset the legal and financial arrangements made by families in order to foresee the future as best as they could. Moreover, disputes over managing acquired property and the minors themselves meant that children and adolescents had to be monetarized, as the litigants debated the cost of their maintenance versus the value of their contribution to the domestic economy. The witnesses called on both sides had great difficulty quantifying these family services which were of the natural order of things at the time.
Conclusion : Urban living and waged labor allowed witnesses to more precisely measure the assets and expenditures related to adolescence.
Contribution : This abrupt change in the social relation to money and value, were it more fully documented, constituted a key moment in the history of the family during the transition to industrial capitalism in Quebec.