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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Children's perspectives of safety in their neighbourhood Negreiros, Juliana


The main purpose of this study was to explore, understand, and describe children’s perspectives of safety in their neighbourhood. Participants included 15 children aged 7 to 9 years, who lived in a neighbourhood in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia characterized by high crime rate and characteristics associated with high vulnerability. The methodology used was symbolic interactionism. Data collection included individual and collective drawing activities and semi-structured group interviews conducted across three group sessions. Field notes and memos were used to document the data analysis process, in addition to peer debriefing sessions. A constant comparison method guided the coding, categorization, and analysis of all data, which were reviewed by a peer audit. Through the social interaction in groups, children co-constructed the meanings of safety, enriching the discussions and expanding the findings. Two interrelated core categories emerged: protective conditions that serve to help the children prevent or avoid risky events. Protective conditions were associated with places and people the children perceived as protective and with protective actions taken and protective accessories used to prevent harm. Risky events included neighbourhood disorder, crime, contact with strangers, and accidents. The fear of exposure to such events could result in harm and, consequently, damage children’s sense of well-being. The dynamic relationship between the obverse meanings of safety -safe and unsafe- contributed to children’s understanding of this concept. It is suggested that the social context where the children live and the social interaction among participants shaped their perspectives of safety. While examples of extreme dangerous situations, descriptions of safety rules taught by adults, and media violence illustrated children’s “negative” perspectives of safety, a few participants indicated that supportive relationships promoted sense of security. Implications of these findings for parents, psychologists, and other professionals working with children suggest efforts to (a) understand and recognize the benefits and risks of teaching children strategies to protect themselves, (b) promote positive and stable relationships within the child’s proximal environments (family, school, and neighbourhood), and (c) reduce situations in the neighbourhood associated with disorder as children perceive themselves as unable to maintain their sense of well-being.

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