Children’s perceptions of their outdoor environment in relation to their physical activity behaviours: exploring differences by urbanicity and area level deprivation

Hayball, Felicity Zara Lee (2018) Children’s perceptions of their outdoor environment in relation to their physical activity behaviours: exploring differences by urbanicity and area level deprivation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background – Physical activity (PA) has been shown to have numerous physical (e.g., reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity) and psychological (e.g., improved mental well-being, and reduction in levels of stress and depression) benefits for childhood health. Despite the known benefits, childhood PA levels are low in Scotland, where less than 20% of children achieve the recommended daily guidelines. Evidence suggests that time spent outside is positively associated with achieving higher PA levels. Understanding what might encourage children to spend time outside in their neighbourhood could inform the development of interventions aimed at encouraging children to be more active. Children from different socio-spatial neighbourhoods may perceive and utilise their neighbourhood differently, influencing how they spend their free time. This PhD thesis examines how children from diverse settings perceive their neighbourhood in relation to their outdoor activity behaviours.
Methods – This thesis takes a qualitative, multi-methodological approach, towards understanding 10-11 year old children’s perceptions of their environment in relation to their time spent outside through the lens of Gibson’s theory of affordances. A pilot study (n=15, 5 boys, 10 girls) was conducted to test the feasibility of the methods. For the main study, the children (n=25, 12 boys, 13 girls) were from different levels of area deprivation and from varying levels of urbanicity. Data collection methods included photo voice, drawings, focus groups or interviews. The participants were asked to document features within their environment (via photographs and drawings) that they felt influenced their time outside. They were then asked to participate in either a focus group or a one-to-one interview. The data collection process took place between May and September 2015. Findings – Children’s perceptions of their neighbourhood environments are complex, and numerous differences were found to be dependent on area of residence. Children from rural areas appeared to be influenced more by physical affordances whereas children living in urban settings were influenced more by social affordances, specifically their friends. Children living in more deprived neighbourhoods spoke of needing more PA opportunities in their neighbourhood compared to children living in more affluent neighbourhoods, suggesting that inequalities may still exist between higher and lower area deprivation. Many of the children considered current play equipment too boring, and lacked challenge or risk. The children desired equipment that better suited their perceived capabilities. This thesis found that children were more likely to spend time outside for psychological reasons, such as relaxation.
Conclusion – Through the use of novel methodology in this subject area, this thesis adds an original contribution to the literature by exploring children’s environmental perceptions in relation to PA, and by looking at how setting might influence these perceptions. This thesis found that children perceive their environment differently dependent on the context of their lives, suggesting that initiatives to increase childhood PA could differ depending on residential setting. Additionally, policy may emphasize the psychological benefits to children as opposed to the physical benefits. Highlighting benefits such as relaxation, happiness and excitement may be more conducive to increasing PA among this age group than focusing on benefits such as weight management and cardiovascular health.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Physical activity, participatory methods, qualitative methods, outdoor environment.
Subjects: R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
Supervisor's Name: Ellaway, Prof. Anne, McCrorie, Dr. Paul, Gibson, Dr. Ann-Marie and Kirk, Dr. Alison
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Felicity Zara Lee Hayball
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-9037
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2018 15:44
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2018 16:03
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