Children's independent spatial mobility in the urban public realm

Margaret O'Brien, Deborah Jones, David Sloan, Michael Rustin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines children's spatial mobility in urban settings. Through data from a study of children living in contrasting urban environments, London and a lower-density new town, the article focuses on how children move around in the public realm. The data show that there are significant variations in how contemporary children use their public spaces. Children's freedom to move around their neighbourhood was greatest in the new town. Girls and minority ethnic children were more restricted in their use of urban space. Comparison with previous research suggests a decrease in independent use of public space for 10/11-year-old English children since the 1970s. It is argued that future debate about children's place in the city should move away from `the unitary public child'. Lack of attention to the different ways children use their cities will hinder advances in social policies designed to enhance participation for all children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-277
Number of pages21
JournalChildhood: A Global Journal of Child Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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