Growing up in the inner city: Green spaces as places to grow

Taylor, A. F., Wiley, A., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C.

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Taylor, A. F., Wiley, A., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (1998). Growing up in the inner city: Green spaces as places to grow. Environment and Behavior, 30(1), 3–27.

Adult Supervision , Neighborhood Outdoor Space , Play , Public Housing , Vegetation

Children growing up in the inner city are at risk for a range of negative developmental outcomes. Do barren, inner-city neighborhood spaces compromise the everyday activities and experiences necessary for healthy development? Sixty-four urban public housing outdoor spaces (27 low vegetation, 37 high vegetation) were observed on four separate occasions. Overall, inner-city children's everyday activities and access to adults appeared remarkably healthy; of the 262 children observed, most (73%) were involved in some type of play, and most groups of children (87%) were supervised to some degree. In relatively barren spaces, however, the picture was considerably less optimistic: Levels of play and access to adults were approximately half as much as those found in spaces with more trees and grass, and the incidence of creative play was significantly lower in barren spaces than in relatively green spaces

Main finding
This study compares the nature of play activities and connections between children and adults in public housing residential courtyards, with particular consideration to differences between courtyards that have either high or low levels of vegetation. Observations across 64 such courtyards showed that more children's play (particularly creative play) occurred in high vegetation courtyards, and children also had more access to adults in such spaces compared to low vegetation courtyards.

Description of method used in the article
Sixty-four half-courtyard spaces, varying in degrees of vegetation present, were observed in a public housing development in Chicago, Illinois, from September to October 1995. Each 2- to 3-hour observation included a detailed map of the space and a table wherein observers categorized the presence and play activities of children, as well as the presence and connection between children and adults. Types of play were categorized into nine subcategories (e.g., pretend, rule-bound, functional, constructive play, etc.) and children’s access to adults while playing was also coded (i.e., none, partial, full, or interacting). Results were analyzed to explore the relationship between the presence of vegetation and the presence of children playing and adults.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Play/Passive Recreation
Field Observations
Physical types
Geographic locations