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Create, control and have territories or secret places: A comparative study of children's play territoriality in their daily outdoor environments between Beijing's urban village and modern residential areas

Summary


Natural areas are the most common play territories for children from different living environments

One outcome of urbanization in China is a differentiation of children’s living environments. Some children live in urban villages; others live in residential areas. The urban villages, which were developed to provide housing for migrant farm workers, tend to have poor residential quality, with dense and disordered landscapes. The residential areas, where the higher-income families live, offer better quality living conditions, including more space for leisure activity. This study compared the outdoor play territory selection, territorial psychology and territorial behaviors of children from these two different living environments.

Both questionnaires and individual interviews were used with children (8-12 years of age) to collect information relating to how they claimed, used, and protected territory for play. There were two parts to the study. Part one was designed to establish a universal system for studying the territoriality of children’s play. Part two applied that system with children from three elementary schools: two serving children from residential areas; one with children from urban villages. Four hundred questionnaires were completed by the children, with the researchers assisting as needed. Fourteen children participated in one-on-one interviews. Because four of the interviewees indicated that they did not have territories for play, the analysis of interview data focused on the other ten children (8 from residential areas, 2 from urban villages).

Each child in the residential areas and urban villages generally had more than two territories for play. There were some differences, however, between the groups in relation to their territorial space, territorial psychology, and territorial behavior. These differences were reflected in their territory space as well as in their type, frequency, and duration of play. One thing both groups had in common was their preference for natural space. Other types of space both groups enjoyed included open space, road space, ruins space (deserted or scarcely used), and secret space. The overall territoriality of children in residential areas was greater than that of children in urban villages. Children in residential areas generally considered their territories to be play spaces, while children in urban villages tended to think of private territory as more of a sanctuary to express their feelings. Age and gender also influenced the children’s choice of territorial space. Children older than 10, especially girls, indicated a need for more private territory. Boys generally had stronger territorial psychology and territorial behavior than girls.

The fact that natural space was the most common territory space for the two groups of children highlights the importance of providing natural space in children’s play spaces.

Citation

Wang, F., Ruan, H., Wang, H.D., Zong, Y., Zhen, F., (2017). Create, control and have territories or secret places: A comparative study of children's play territoriality in their daily outdoor environments between Beijing's urban village and modern residential areas. Habitat International, 66, 125-134.

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