Contested views of freedom and control: Children, teenagers and urban fringe woodlands in Central Scotland

Simon Bell*, Catharine Ward Thompson, Penny Travlou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Use of informal greenspace, such as urban fringe woodlands, by children and teenagers is potentially an important aspect of their development, allowing opportunities for free play and for experiencing nature at close quarters. The ways in which children and teenagers make use of woodlands can be classed as either positive (use) or negative (abuse) by landowners, managers and by different groups of children and teenagers themselves. As part of a wider study examining local use and social inclusion in woodlands close to towns in central Scotland, qualitative research techniques, including focus groups and site observations, were used to explore in depth the contested views of freedom and control as expressed by site managers, adults, children and teenagers. The results give further support to findings in the literature about the importance of access to natural areas for children and society's ambivalent attitude towards teenagers in public places. It also uncovered aspects of the attitudes of older teenagers and the ways in which their perceptions conflict with those of managers. In particular, older teenagers' needs and the opportunities woodlands can provide for developing a sense of identity and testing of boundaries are poorly understood or tolerated by managers. Further research is proposed, including more detailed examination of the degree to which children's and teenagers' engagement with nature today is restricted by comparison with previous generations, and the likely consequences of such restriction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-100
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Children
  • Freedom
  • Teenagers
  • Urban fringe
  • Urban woodlands


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