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Gender differences in children’s mobility behaviour in urban areas

Mackett, RL; Brown, B; (2008) Gender differences in children’s mobility behaviour in urban areas. In: (Proceedings) 9th International Conference on Walking, held in Barcelona, Spain.

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8-10 October The focus of this paper is the analysis of differences in the ways that boys and girls move around in local areas, mainly by walking. A key factor that is explored is the role of independence. This is very relevant today when parental concerns about the perceived risk to children being allowed without an adult are very high, but have to be set against the increasing awareness of the risk of obesity because of low levels of physical activity by many children. This paper is based on findings from the project CAPABLE (Children’s Activity, Perceptions and Behaviour in the Local Environment) that has been carried out at University College London. A key finding was the role that being allowed to go out without an adult plays in children’s walking, physical activity and life in general. This paper builds on findings in papers presented at previous Walk21 conferences. The CAPABLE project has involved the use of a variety of techniques to examine how children aged 8 to 13 behave when they go out of the home. The field work was carried out in Lewisham in south east London and in Hertfordshire to the north of London. The analysis in this paper is based upon the results from questionnaire surveys, interviews and map annotation exercises. Two questionnaires were used: one completed at school by the children, the other completed by their parents. The aim of the map annotation exercise was to examine children’s patterns of travel behaviour and see how this was influenced by their social networks. Interviews were conducted with 36 parents living in the Lewisham area. The map annotations and interviews provided qualitative information to underpin the responses from the questionnaires. Some of the discussions involved siblings of the children included in the surveys, for example to provide a contrast between the attitudes of parents to children of different genders. In the paper the emphasis is on increasing understanding of gender differences in children’s behaviour in the local environment. In the research it was found that there are significant differences between the amount of independence given to boys and girls. Much of the discussion is about the differences between boys and girls, in terms of how they interact with their friends and how they choose environments which enable them to foster these interactions. For boys, football in the park is a key activity, while girls often choose to go to shopping centres with their friends. The activities of football in the park and wandering around shopping centres provide relative controlled environments where children interact with one another in ways that reflect their gender characteristics. Better understanding of how children use such environments will enable planners to design places that can be used by children with confidence.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Gender differences in children’s mobility behaviour in urban areas
Event: 9th International Conference on Walking, held in Barcelona, Spain
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/144555
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