Young Girls and Urban Parks: Planning for Transition Through Adolescence
Keywords:young girls, adolescence, public space, urban parks, leisure
AbstractUrban parks are an important resource for young people, providing spaces to explore and develop their social and individual identities. However, planning open spaces for adolescents is often challenging due to the perceived inconsistencies in their need for and use of space. Young girls in particular have been shown to be less visible in parks due to issues such as low self-esteem, perceived lack of safety, and the presence of young males (James, 1995). In order to optimize the use of urban parks to support the developmental needs of adolescent girls, park professionals must first understand the role of these spaces in their lives and how this role evolves as girls make the transition through adolescence to adulthood. This paper reports findings from a study that examined the role of local neighborhood parks in the lives of 11 teenage girls aged 14 to 18 years, living in Brisbane, Australia. An analysis of qualitative data revealed that parks supported two of the main developmental processes of adolescence: “social-relatedness” and “individuation.” Parks were important settings for “social interaction” when the girls were in early adolescence but were used more often as sites for “retreat” in middle and late adolescence. At this time the girls sought to escape from the increasing structure in their lives. Far from avoiding local parks, the girls’ stories showed that they were active users of these spaces throughout adolescence. Certain characteristics made parks more attractive and accessible to teenage girls: social safety, sociability, and nature. It is recommended that further research on the needs and preferences of teenage girls in relation to open space during this life phase is conducted. This information can then be articulated more clearly in the processes of park planning, design, and management.?
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