Teen and adult perceptions of urban green space in Los Angeles

Gearin, E., & Kahle, C.

Gearin, E., & Kahle, C. (2006). Teen and adult perceptions of urban green space in Los Angeles. Children, Youth and Environments, 16(1), 25–48. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.16.1.0025

focus groups , participation , teenagers , urban green space , youth

Results from an inner-city teen focus group on parks and urban green space in Los Angeles, California and responses to parallel questions posed to adults from the same area show striking differences. While adults focused on activities and cited a need for additional recreation-oriented parks for teens, teenagers themselves focused on greened spaces suitable for socializing and relaxing. Teens were also keenly interested in local parks, aware of maintenance issues, and concerned about personal safety.

Main finding
The authors found that high school participants suggested green spaces could be used casually for multiple social activities, in contrast to the more structured and supervised uses suggested by adults. The students took interest in improving existing space by maintaining it, adding more natural features, and transforming unused spaces such as tunnel underpasses and alleys into green spaces. Additionally, the students were concerned with the safety and cleanliness of existing parks. The authors argue that including youth in planning efforts adds value to the understanding of citizens' needs that cannot be understood with adult involvement alone. The authors found that participation was stimulated by the outdoor walking exercise and suggest that youth focus groups should avoid institutional settings and close supervision by authority figures that may influence responses.

Description of method used in the article
Data for this article relied on a focus group interview with high school students (n=16) and a parallel focus group with adults (n=24) from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Both groups were asked to describe existing open space and identify potential improvements to local areas and urban green spaces. An outdoor walking focus group was also employed in the study.

Of practical use

Organising categories