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children, geography and

  A sub-disciplinary area which focuses on how children\'s perceptions, experiences and opportunities are socially and spatially structured, and which examines the reproduction of culture and social life through children (Aitken, 1994). Two studies (Bunge, 1973; Blaut and Stea, 1971) in the early 1970s were pivotal in the development of this field. Bunge\'s (1973) research in Detroit and Toronto exposed the ways in which children are oppressed by the built environment. This recognition inspired him to advocate that working-class children should be the focus of academic and political activities. Blaut and Stea\'s Place Perception Project initiated a significant collection of studies on children\'s cognitive mapping skills.

Subsequently the geography of children has ranged widely in subject matter, methodology and philosophical approach. For example, Bunge\'s research had its roots in radical geography, whereas Blaut and Stea\'s work and similar scientific studies are located within positivist or behavioural schools of thought. Geographers and environmental psychologists (e.g. Hart, 1979) have adopted a humanistic approach to explore children\'s imaginative and creative play, attachment to place, and use of space (cf. sense of place). There are welfare geographies which consider how variables such as education, health, housing, poverty, environmental factors such as pollution, hazards and war, and inequalities in the distribution of resources, affect children\'s well-being at local, national, and global scales (e.g. Pinch, 1984). Research on young people has also been influenced by feminist and postmodern thought, which has stimulated work promoting the voice of children as a marginal or \'othered\' social group, and a sensitivity to difference (for example in terms of gender, age, mobility impairment: see disability, geography and) in relation to children\'s geographies (e.g. Aitken and Wingate, 1993). Katz\'s (1993) comparative study of children in the Sudan and US provides a good example of work which recognizes that what it means to be a child, and indeed the point at which childhood begins and ends, varies widely in different cultural and geographical contexts.

Influenced by the extensive body of research on the sociology of childhood, geographers are now reflecting on the particular methodological and ethical problems that arise when working with children and are attempting to develop more child-centred methodologies (cf. ethics, geography and). The work of psychologists, and psychoanalytical insights, have also been important in shaping the development of geographical research on children and their environments (cf. psychoanalytic theory). For example, Piaget\'s theory that a child\'s intelligence is not innate but develops in complex ways as a result of its participation in its environment, has been employed — and criticized — by a number of geographers studying children\'s cognition and perception of space. A psychoanalytical notion of \'transitional space\' — the space of play — has also been used by geographers to understand how children learn to distinguish between self and other.

Children\'s lives are strongly defined by adults. The geography of children therefore includes studies of the adult-mediated environments (such as the home and neighbourhood) and institutions (including child-care and day-care centres, schools, hospitals, and homeless shelters) which circumscribe young people\'s lives and through which young people learn values and ways of living that reproduce cultural and social relations (Aitken, 1994; Sibley, 1995). Some of this work suggests that contemporary concerns in modern western societies about children\'s safety from traffic and violent strangers, the growth of institutional forms of play, and the development of home-centred forms of entertainment (such as computer games), alongside a deterioration in urban space and the contemporary loss of rural space and woods to agricultural land, may be eroding children\'s independent access to and use of outdoor space, thus producing so-called \'public space\' as adult space (Valentine, 1997).

Rather than passively accepting adults\' exclusionary productions of domestic, institutional, urban and rural space, children actively resist and subvert adult definitions of their lives. The concepts of competence and agency form the basis of a body of work on the way children both appropriate adult public space, for example through environmental activism and public art, and develop ingenious ways of adapting everyday environments to make their own space (Ward, 1988). (GV)

References Aitken, S. 1994: Putting children in their place. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Geographers. Aitken, S. and Wingate, J. 1993: A preliminary study of the self-directed photography of middle-class, homeless, and mobility impaired children. The Professional Geographer 45: 65-72. Blaut, J. and Stea, D. 1971: Studies of geographic learning. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 61: 387-449. Bunge, W. 1973: The point of reproduction: a second front. Antipode 9: 60-76. Hart, R. 1979: Children\'s experience of place. New York: Irvington. Katz, C. 1993: Growing girls/ closing circles: limits on the spaces of knowing. In C. Katz and J. Monk, eds, Full circles: geographies of women over the lifecourse. London: Routledge. Pinch, S. 1984: Inequalities in pre-school provision: a geographical perspective. In A. Kirby, P. Knox, and S. Pinch, eds, Public service provision and urban development. London: Croom Helm. Sibley, D. 1995: Families and domestic routines: constructing the boundaries of childhood. In S. Pile and N. Thrift, eds, Mapping the subject. London: Routledge. Valentine, G. 1997: \'My son\'s a bit dizzy\'. \'My wife\'s a bit soft.\': Gender, children and cultures of parenting. Gender, Place and Culture 4: 37-62. Ward, C. 1988: The child in the country. London: Bedford Square Press.

Suggested Reading Aitken, S (1994). Matthews, M.H. 1992: Making sense of space. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.



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