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Neighborhood design and children's outdoor play: Evidence from Northern California


Certain neighborhood features influence parents’ perceptions of safety and children’s outdoor play

Handy and colleagues investigated relationships between the built and social environments of neighborhoods and children’s outdoor play using both a cross-sectional and quasi-longitudinal approach. Data for this study came from surveys completed by a random sample of nearly 600 households with children under the age of 16 who had either recently moved or not recently moved. Participants lived in one of eight neighborhoods in Northern California. Importantly, Handy and colleagues examined the effect of neighborhood characteristics on children’s outdoor play while controlling for neighborhood preferences. In analyzing the data, researchers found that cul-de-sacs for 6- to 12-year-old children, larger front yards, lower crime, and more interaction among neighbors were characteristics that significantly and positively impacted children’s outdoor play after controlling for socio-demographic characteristics and neighborhood preferences. Handy and colleagues also found that the built environment variables identified as significant (cul-de-sacs and larger front yards) were related to parents’ perceptions of safety.


Handy, S., Cao, X., Mokhtarian, P., (2008). Neighborhood design and children's outdoor play: Evidence from Northern California. Children, Youth and Environments, 18(2), 160-179.

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