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Title: The affordances of adolescents' environments
Author: Clark, Charlotte E. S.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3552 8356
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis is concerned with identifying the function of the environment for adolescents. In recent years adolescents have been considered illegitimate users of the environment by adults. This thesis examines how the environment supports the developmental needs of adolescents, thus putting forward a more legitimate role for adolescents as users of the environment. The epistemological position of this thesis is one of methodological eclecticism; both quantitative and qualitative methods have been utilised to elicit different kinds of data. Gibson's theory of affordances (1966, 1979) forms the basis for the examination of the functional significance of four key adolescents' environments; the home, neighbourhood, school and town centre. The affordances of these environments for the key developmental needs of social interaction and retreat were identified using a questionnaire survey and focus group discussions with adolescents aged between 11-16 years (Questionnaire study N=411, Focus group study N=36). These studies resulted in a taxonomy of the social affordances of adolescents' environments, which consisted of 34 affordances. This taxonomy was then utilised in a questionnaire study (N=539) where adolescents rated the number of places in the home, neighbourhood, school and town centre, for each of the 34 social affordances. Principal components analysis was then used to create scales to measure the function of each environment. These scales were then used to compare the function of the four key environments and to examine group differences in environmental use. The results show that the neighbourhood, school and town centre all afford both social interaction and retreat, whilst the home only affords retreat. There is also a developmental dimension to use of these environments; with age there is a decline in use of the neighbourhood and the town centre switches from being a casual leisure setting to a commercial leisure setting. The results also suggest that a supportive environment has psychological consequences for adolescents. This thesis also examines the affective aspects of adolescents' use of the four key environments. Experiences in these environments were assessed qualitatively using focus group discussions (N=36). Female adolescents report feelings of fear and vulnerability in the town centre but these fears do not affect their use of the town centre. This suggests that learning to handle threatening experiences is an important skill that adolescents develop in the town centre. Adolescents express dissatisfaction with the facilities of the town centre and require more places for hanging around, social interaction and meeting new people. The town centre is also the overwhelmingly preferred environment for adolescents, which suggests that any provisions that are made for adolescents' leisure should be located in the town centre. This research establishes a greater understanding of adolescents' use of the environment and the findings have implications for the planning, design and management of adolescents' environments. This research develops the theoretical and methodological application of Gibson's theory of affordances in environmental psychology and concludes by proposing a model of the adolescent-environment relationship.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Adolescent-environment relationship