Affordances, Young People, Parks and Alcohol Consumption

Tim G. Townshend & Marion Roberts

Go to article

Townshend, T. G. & Roberts, M. (1). Affordances, Young People, Parks and Alcohol Consumption. Journal of Urban Design, 18(4), 494–516.

Affordances , Environmental Psychology , Leisure

This paper is drawn from a larger research project exploring young people, leisure activities and alcohol consumption. The study draws on the concept of affordances from environmental psychology as a way of framing the debate of what young people need in neighbourhood parks. Parks are important to this age group since they provide a setting for physical activity, relaxation and social interaction. However, human development at this life stage also includes indulging in experimental and/or deviant behaviour. In the eyes of the young people involved, however, their behaviour is mostly benign, even if/when it causes conflict with other users. Furthermore, they often take particular measures to avoid other age groups (defined in environmental psychology as ‘retreat’) and while often voluntary, it may also be enforced. The research suggests that while the park is the most important place for this age group to socialise outside the home, young people themselves often feel poorly provided for and unwelcome. The fact that they adopt what they find in parks to suit their needs is motivated by interconnecting aspirations, perceptions and needs. Developing a more sophisticated understanding of these issues may lead to more appropriate and satisfactory design for all users.

Main finding
This paper finds that while parks were the most frequently-mentioned location for social interaction for young people from a similar age group, young peple are poorly provided for in public parks. The study notes that there is still a desire to ‘play’ at this age, although this was often associated either with a sense of regret or a sense of embarrassment that they still enjoyed ‘childish’ activities.

Description of method used in the article
Extracted from a larger research project that explored variations in young people's (aged 15–16) leisure time activities and in particular, their alcohol consumption. Participants were asked to complete a weekend activity diary (Friday–Sunday) which addressed the ‘what, where and with whom’ aspects of leisure activity, therefore, the numbers quoted in the findings section, represent the whole weekend. All interview material was digitally recorded and fully transcribed and entered into NVivo9 qualitative data analysis software. Within NVivo three parent nodes (or themes) were created to address the physical, social and regulatory environments.

Policy implications

Organising categories

Field Observations
Urban Design
Physical types
Geographic locations