Environmental constraints on health: Listening to children's views

Davis, Adrian and Jones, Linda (1996). Environmental constraints on health: Listening to children's views. Health Education Journal, 55(4) pp. 363–374.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/001789699605500402


Children are major users of their local environments yet they are largely excluded from discussions about transport, planning and environmental health, and may be seen only as 'problems' or 'victims'. However, if children's own accounts are studied it is clear that they are active risk-assessors and problem-solvers who develop strategies to survive hostile environments. This study involved children from four schools in broadly working-class areas of Birmingham. A semi-structured question naire was completed by a total of 492 9-11-year-old and 13-14-year-old pupils, and focus-group discussions were held with one group from each class taking part in the questionnaire. This paper reports on the focus groups, during which participants identified considerable environmental constraints on their activities. Many were not allowed to play outdoors, use local parks or cycle to school — or they did not feel comfortable doing so. Girls especially were restricted in how late they were allowed out. In the children's views, traffic danger, 'stranger danger' and social and cultural factors interact to create barriers to keeping healthy and active. An understanding of children's perceptions of risk and an incorporation of their ideas for change are central to the success of any physical activity strategy.

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