Neighborhood Child-Friendliness: A Comparative Analysis of Parental Landscape Perceptions and Geographic Information Systems-based Urban Planning Indices




Maleki, Shadi

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Urban planners have commonly leveraged geographic information technology to examine neighborhood landscapes and eventually provide a tool that policymakers could use for decision making. While these indices are very practical tools for measuring some aspects of a neighborhood's environment, they do not capture landscape elements rooted in the environment's firsthand experiences. The lay public's knowledge, known as local knowledge in the planning literature, has often been considered "belief" or "opinion" and therefore dismissed as planning practices rely mostly on technical knowledge and expertise. However, the increasing attention to the importance of public participation in planning highlighted the need to consider local communities' firsthand experiences putting pressure on urban planners to seek new ways of merging the science-based knowledge of expert planners with the contextual intelligence that only local communities possess. This dissertation research examines neighborhood child-friendliness by studying the differences between spatial models of three popular urban planning indices (expert knowledge) and the local community's perceptions who experience the same landscapes firsthand (local knowledge). This study uses a mixed-methods approach, including a) building a geographic information system (GIS) for the study area illustrating popular quantitative urban planning landscape indices related to child-friendliness, b) conducting an online survey of parents in the study area assessing their perceptions of child-friendliness characteristics for their neighborhood, c) conducting in-depth interviews with a geographically-dispersed, volunteer cohort of parents in the study area, and d) quantitatively and qualitatively evaluating the differences between expert knowledge illustrations of child-friendliness and parental perceptions in Austin metro area in Texas. The integrated GIS use allows spatial examination of expert and local knowledge and generates insight regarding differences between these two viewpoints. The results of this research add to the emerging scholarship on the differences between expert and local knowledge in urban planning and inform practitioners and decision-makers engaged in developing and supporting child friendly urban landscapes.



GIS, Child friendly, Neighborhood analysis, Expert knowledge, Local knowledge, Urban planning


Maleki, S. (2021). Neighborhood child-friendliness: A comparative analysis of parental landscape perceptions and geographic information systems-based urban planning indices (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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