URBS 4/581—Selected Topics:  Growing Up in Cities

I.                    Studying ChildrenWhat is available for working with children?  What are the advantages & disadvantages of each?

a.       Issues in data collection (Driskoll, 2002, pp. 177-179)

                                                               i.      Allocate  sufficient  time

                                                             ii.      Strive for complete,  accurate data

                                                            iii.      Be cost-effective

                                                           iv.      Explore non-traditional data sources

                                                             v.      Document your sources

                                                           vi.      Collect  images as well as words & numbers

                                                          vii.      Distinguish between “facts” and “impressions”

                                                        viii.      Maximize opportunities for participation

b.      Ways of Studying Children (Almy & Cunningham, 1959)

                                                               i.      Observation:  The Basic Way of Studying Children

                                                             ii.      Study Children in  Their Groups (informal observation & sociometric observation)

                                                            iii.      Ask Children  About Themselves (self-report, class discussion, casual conversation, written reports, questionnaires)

                                                           iv.      Study the Way Children Express Themselves (written, oral, dramatic play, role-playing, music, dance, art)

                                                             v.      Study the Child Through Others (Parents as a resource, other informants)

                                                           vi.      Study the Records

c.       Research with Human Subjects:  Children

                                                               i.      For a basic description of the work of the IRB (Institutional Review Board), which oversees research with human subjects, see http://krypton.mnsu.edu/~tony/Human%20Subject%20Research.ppt

                                                             ii.      Children are a protected category of research subjects

1.      They cannot give informed consent to participate in research.  They can (and should be asked for) give assent, but the parent or guardian should be asked for consent.

2.      They are, by definition, vulnerable subjects and so the investigator bears a special responsibility to protect them from harm.

                                                            iii.      If you will be doing research with children,

1.      you must complete a Human Subjects Review form, available at http://www2.mnsu.edu/graduate/facstaff/proposalguidelineshtml.htm

2.      If your project qualifies, you might also want the Level I Review checklist, available at http://www2.mnsu.edu/graduate/facstaff/irbLevel1Checklist.pdf

3.      a full description of MSU’s IRB is available from MSU’s Office of Research at http://www2.mnsu.edu/graduate/facstaff/irbForms.shtml 

d.      Secondary Data (Driskoll, 2002, pp. 180-194)

                                                               i.      Maps & photographs

                                                             ii.      Visual survey/photogrid

                                                            iii.      Physical environment data

                                                           iv.      Social & economic information

                                                             v.      Political, legal, & cultural information

                                                           vi.      Historical information

                                                          vii.      See Children’s Defense Fund. (2003)  Kids Count Databook.  Available on Web at http://www.cdf-mn.org/PDF/KidsCountData_03/DataBook_2003.pdf

e.       Interviews

                                                               i.      Fred Hill, “Lives & Times of urban  adolescents  Activities which are reported the most are not necessarily enjoyed the most.

                                                             ii.      Inappropriate for younger children (5-6 year-olds find them awkward) or abstract concepts (“poverty”) (Mauthner, 1997). 

1.      Explore abstract subjects through concrete examples (“I feel happy/sad…” cards, or photos of situations).

2.      Let child set the agenda (don’t ask too many questions—listen instead)

3.      Useful to ask child to describe specific events (and then probe for meaning)

4.      Pay attention  to level of language used and euphemisms (children use different ones)

                                                            iii.      Focus Groups can be particularly useful with younger children, especially if they already know (and like) each other (Mauthner, 1997).

1.      This technique puts them in a situation that is already familiar—talking together—and makes them less self-conscious. 

2.      It structures the interview around themes rather than question-and-answer. 

3.      Gender and age composition are important issues (older children and males tend to dominate conversation).

f.        Participant Observation

                                                               i.      Particularly useful with younger children (Mauthner, 1997).  Permits both observation and unstructured inquiry.

                                                             ii.      Key issues (Fine & Sandstrom, 1988)

1.      Role of researcher

2.      Trust

3.      Adult-role-related ethical issues

4.      Knowing the  culture

                                                            iii.      Guided tours (Ladd, 1970)

                                                           iv.      Drawings & interviews (Moore, 1980)

g.       Controlled Observation

                                                               i.      Can be useful source of information, provided observer is not seen as “lurking.”

                                                             ii.      Provides  information on how many do what where, but does not provide interpretation of the behavior.

h.       Structured Activities

                                                               i.      Drawings

1.      Elkisch (1945)—“It is assumed that expressions of younger children (in drawings) are less disguised” (p. 27).  Criteria for coding for psychological impact include:

a.       Rhythm/Rule (flexibility vs. uniformity)

b.      Complex/Simple (differentiation vs. primitive)

c.       Expansion/Compression (contact potential—exploration vs. isolation)

d.      Integration/Disintegration (order vs. chaos)

e.       Realism/Symbolism (world  of objects vs. inner world)

2.      Lystad (1974)—coding drawings and stories for content

a.       Setting

                                                                                                                                       i.      Orientation (reality/fantasy)

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Treatment of subject (matter-of-fact/humorous)

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Characteristics of locale (urban/suburban/rural; near natural features like water, forest, etc.)

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Locale in relation to main character of work (home/school/work; in community/outside community)

b.      Actors

                                                                                                                                       i.      Type of actor (human/animal/inanimate/supernatural)

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Type of human involvement (with sibling, parent, family/with other adults/with other children; child alone; adult alone/with other adults)

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Racial or ethnic characteristics

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Type of animal involvement (pets/zoo animals/predators/domestic animals)

                                                                                                                                     v.      Type of supernatural involvement (good/bad guys)

                                                                                                                                   vi.      Main character (child/other child/adult/animal/inanimate/supernatural being)

                                                                                                                                  vii.      Affect shown among characters (positive/negative/both)

                                                                                                                                viii.      Complexity of main figure (one action/ambivalence or more than one process)

                                                                                                                                   ix.      Activity of main figure (action only/action & thought/thought only)

c.       Needs of actors

                                                                                                                                       i.      Basic needs (physiological/safety/love—of people or of animals/independence & freedom/achievement & strength)

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Problems in solving needs (physical/psychological threats)

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Life passages (birth/puberty/marriage/old age/death)

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Needs in relation to self (concern with self alone/self & others/others alone)

d.      Means  of satisfying needs

                                                                                                                                       i.      Social institutions involved (political/economic/leisure/familial/religious/educational)

                                                                                                                                     ii.      Cognitive relationships (rational/irrational)

                                                                                                                                    iii.      Affective relationships (intimate/apart)

                                                                                                                                   iv.      Goal orientation (individual/group goals)

                                                                                                                                     v.      Stratification (hierarchical/non-hierarchical)

                                                                                                                                   vi.      Manner in which needs are met (self-direction/conformity to norms)

                                                                                                                                  vii.      Sex-related activity (girl/boy/boy-girl/none)

                                                                                                                                viii.      Age-related activity (child as child/adult; adult as adult/child)

e.       Satisfaction of needs

                                                                                                                                       i.      Satisfactions (success due to self/others; failure due to self/others)

                                                                                                                                     ii.      View  of self (positive/mixed/negative)

                                                                                                                                    iii.      View of people’s capabilities in the world (control own  lives/controlled by others)

                                                                                                                                   iv.      View of world in general (friendly/uncertain/hostile)

3.      Meaning of images can change with the times (Gondor & Gondor, 1969)—“sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

4.      John Dean, “Housing Design & Family Values”—Asking people what they want, they will overlook wants that are currently satisfied.  Drawing forces them to fill these in.

5.      Muscovitch, “Child’s  Perception of the Neighborhood” (CMHC, 1980)  6-9 year-olds:

a.       Schools show up as important (but not central, even when planned to be)

b.      So do playgrounds

c.       Shopping with parents is also high

d.      Difference in play between s/f and m/f areas

6.      Galia Weiser “City streets:  The child’s image as a basis for design,” Innovation in Play Environments, PF Wilkinson, ed..  NY:  St. Martin’s Press, 1980.   

a.       “My street” ranges from 50-150 meters (no age given). 

b.      Space is defined by large elements (houses & trees) which are drawn schematically in 2 dimensions, and defined by small-scale elements (fences, edge of sidewalks, garden, grass, signposts, garbage cans, and flowers) which are described in 3 dimensions.

c.       Space is drawn circularly (or in an elipse, if dominated by a main street).

                                                             ii.      Doll play (Brower)

1.      time-consuming, difficult to codify


Driskell, D.  (2002)  Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth.  London:  UNESCO/Earthscan.

Ladd, F.  (1970)  “Black youths view their environment:  Neighborhood maps,” Environment & Behavior (June) 74-99




© 2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 2 May 2005