Children in the City: Home, Neighborhood, and Community

By Pia Christensen; Margaret O'Brien | Go to book overview

9

Regenerating children's neighbourhoods

What do children want?

Margaret O'Brien

The Childhood, Urban Space and Citizenship project team has been examining children's lives in contrasting neighbourhoods within London and a lower-density new town, Hatfield. 1 One of the objectives of the study was to explore and facilitate 'child-friendly' urban regeneration. We wanted to help promote sensitivity to the perspectives of children in the minds and plans of those involved in the complex task of reviving ailing cities. When the project was first thought about in the mid-1990s, there was, as there still is, intense debate about the declining quality of life in the large cities of Britain. Then, as now, rarely a day passed without a news item on gridlock traffic, inner-city crime or neighbourhood collapse. At the time children's voices were relatively quiet on these matters, despite the legacy of the pioneering work of Kevin Lynch in 1960s America (Lynch 1977) and its recent replication through the UNESCO Growing Up in Cities project led by Louise Chawla (Chawla and Malone, Chapter 8). However, in the mid-1990s British local authorities and city planners rarely incorporated children's perspectives, at least not in the self-conscious manner we see signs of now, with children's drawings and paintings adorning the many building sites of London.

We designed our study to gather systematic data on children's use of and views about their neighbourhood and also incorporated parental accounts, as we anticipated that parental beliefs and practices would be a significant influence on children's participation in the life of their neighbourhood. The study therefore involved a child and parent survey from which we selected a smaller sub-sample of families for in-depth case studies. 2 We wanted to compare patterns of urban living for different sorts of children living in diverse neighbourhoods (between affluent and poor children; between children living in inner London neighbourhoods and those in the suburbs or new towns, between boys and girls and diverse ethnic groups) and also to explore some of these patterns in more detail for a smaller number of cases through interview, observation and group discussion. For outer London two suburban neighbourhoods were chosen: the more professional and ethnically mixed borough of Harrow to the west of London and the more homogeneous white working-class borough of Barking and Dagenham to the east. Within

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Children in the City: Home, Neighborhood, and Community
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • 1 - Children in the City 1
  • References 11
  • 2 - Place, Space and Knowledge 13
  • Notes 27
  • 3 - Children's Views of Family, Home and House 29
  • 4 - 'Displaced' Children? 46
  • 5 - Shaping Daily Life in Urban Environments 66
  • 6 - Children in the Neighbourhood 82
  • References 98
  • 7 - The Street as a Liminal Space 101
  • 8 - Neighbourhood Quality in Children's Eyes 118
  • 9 - Regenerating Children's Neighbourhoods 142
  • Notes 160
  • 10 - Improving the Neighbourhood for Children 162
  • Notes 180
  • 11 - Planning Childhood 184
  • Note 204
  • Index 206
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