Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Walkability as ‘freedom’: The ecology of school journey in inner city Los Angeles neighborhoods
by Uhm, Jung A., Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2008, 188; 3341827
Abstract (Summary)

Over the past two decades, rising concerns over childhood obesity and its health effects have brought the issue of 'walkability' to the forefront in creating a child friendly environment. Particularly, the idea of promoting children walking to and from school has gained widespread support among policy makers, public health officials, civic organizations, and planners as a way to increase physical activity among children to prevent obesity. Recent policies and programs however are based on an assumption about the direct influence of the built environment on school travel mode, of which parents' values and perceptions are considered prominent in determining environmental attributes related to children walking to school.

This research proposes a conceptual framework in understanding the relationship between the environment and children's travel by adding a crucial link generally missing in current walkability research - children. By proposing the notion of walkability as freedom, this study attempts to draw attentions to children's choices and real opportunities and factors that either facilitate or prohibit children in or from actualizing what they value (walking to school as one of many). With this goal, this research explored the elements of a walkable environment through the eyes of ethnic minority children attending five elementary schools in inner city Los Angeles.

Through the triangulation of capability approach, child-centered participatory methods, and ecological perspectives, the findings demonstrate children's capacity not only to observe and understand the environment, but also to evaluate and reflect on making their neighborhood environment safer and walkable on their own terms. This research suggests a shift in policy focus from the provision and improvement of environmental resources to the enhancement of individual freedom by increasing children's participatory capability. The results of this study advance the discussion on the relationship between active school travel and the environment by bringing children into the foreground within the spheres of ecological transaction.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Banerjee, Tridib
Commitee: Irazabal, Clara, Stoner, Madeleine
School: University of Southern California
Department: Planning
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology, Transportation planning, Urban planning
Keywords: California, Capability, Children, Inner city, Inner-city neighborhood, Los Angeles, Perceptions, School travel, Walkability
Publication Number: 3341827
ISBN: 978-0-549-97665-3
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