Children's drawings as research tool : establishing children's environmental concepts and preferences with reference to urban open space planning and design in Johore Bahru, Malaysia
The aim of this research is to investigate meanings and concepts of children's drawings from cultural and gender perspectives using appropriate qualitative techniques and methods for interpreting drawing. This thesis discusses how children's concepts and preferences may differ from adults' thinking and planning. The study starts with a discussion of various issues of relating to children and urban planning and design in Johore Bahru, Malaysia. This is followed by a review of the psychology of children's drawings; the use of children's drawings in environmental research; the provision for and children's use of urban environments, and the state of Johore Bahru's urban environmental planning. Through the literature review, this research studies "Western" models from interdisciplinary perspectives. The children's drawings were used as a research tool to reveal their concepts of home landscape and activities they preferred in an ideal residential neighbourhood environment. Data from questionnaires and essays were used to check evidence found in drawings. In all, 114 Malay, Chinese and Indian children from seven primary schools in urban Johore Bahru completed the tasks. The findings of qualitative content analysis and interpretation of drawings showed similarities and differences across cultures and genders in environmental concepts and preferences which may indicate shortcomings in current urban planning. Children's drawings provide valuable information on the development of children's environmental concepts and preferences of ideal home landscape. The concepts are represented in the form of diverse, safe, colourful and accessible naturalistic environments for exploration, learning, play and socialising with peers. This finding will help future research projects by providing information indicating issues and problems in provision of open spaces within the urban planning system. The thesis concludes with a critical commentary on the likely use of children's drawing as research tool, children's environmental needs and preferences, together with the possibility of child participation in decision making, planning and design process within the urban planning system in Malaysia.