ISSN: 2717-4417

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Department of Architecture, Faculty of Art & Architecture, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran.

2 Department of Urban Planning, Faculty of Art, Architecture and Urban Planning, Najafabad branch. Islamic Azad University, Najafabad, Iran

3 Department of Urban Planning, Faculty of Art, Architecture and Urban Planning, Najafabad branch. Islamic Azad University, Najafabad, Iran.



- Children’s Independent Mobility (CIM) is affected by their interpersonal characteristics, the social environment, and the quality of the built environment. 
- Based on the Grounded Theory, childhood obesity, regulations and controlling process, and social and urban situation introduce casual, contextual, and intervening conditions, respectively.
- CIM can be promoted by various spatial qualities such as walkability, safety and security, playfulness, health, attractiveness, and access to nature.
- The social acceptance and awareness of the community play a role in promotion of children’s independent mobility.
- Promotion of CIM through effective planning and design guidelines results in higher degrees of mental and physical health among children.
In the past few decades, the social conditions of cities have changed the children’s urban life and imposed a huge impact on their freedom of movement and independence in the public realm. Moreover, many parents are caught in “social traps,” and are consequently more likely to restrict their children’s independent, active movement in the public realm. While Children’s Independent Mobility (CIM) originally focused on their independent travel to and from school, the concept has further expanded to embrace their independent, active mobility and play around their neighborhoods without adult supervision or accompaniment. Thus, this paper attempts to study the shared spaces in residential complexes, providing a child’s first independent outdoor experience, and identify the qualities that can contribute to and improve (CIM) in such areas.
 Theoretical Framework
As an essential quality of a child-friendly environment, CIM is an indicator of children’s acceptance in the society, which provides them with the opportunity to be present in the public, play in the neighborhood without adult supervision or accompaniment, and interact with others and develop their social circles. It provides a wider variety of opportunities for socialization and hangouts among children and contributes to their sense of identity. Therefore, CIM is considered as an important quality that aids children’s physical, social, and cognitive development. The main factors that influence CIM include interpersonal characteristics, a sense of community and social environment, and the quality of the built environment. 
With regard to children’s interpersonal characteristics, one has to take into consideration the importance of age and sex in their mobility and play patterns in the public realm. Children aged 8 to 12 years are more likely to receive permission from their parents to go out and play than younger children. There are also clear differences in the ways that boys and girls use and experience urban neighborhoods and spaces; generally, boys enjoy greater freedom of mobility and are more visible in neighborhoods and playgrounds.  
The social environment of a neighborhood is influenced by the level of social cohesion, the existence of shared values and norms, a family’s mental image of their place of residence, their concerns about the presence of strangers, the likelihood of crime and delinquency, and child abuse in the area. In turn, it exhibits impacts on the level of independence that children might experience in their use of public spaces in the neighborhood.
The Physical characteristics affect CIM on two scales: the neighborhood where the residential complex is located and its shared spaces. At the larger scale of the neighborhood, the compact city form, which provides children with short distances between various destinations, increases their chances of active, independent mobility. Furthermore, such areas improve children’s sense of security in public spaces as they enjoy higher population density. In the shared spaces of residential complexes, the characteristics that are closely associated with CIM include density, pedestrian-friendliness, cleanliness, access to green spaces, and proximity to nature. One has to take into consideration that other environmental characteristics, including the climate conditions, air quality, and temperature affect the time for which children would like to stay and play in public areas.
The research employed the grounded theory methodology to construct a theory from the collected data. Due to the necessity of obtaining insights from various groups of stakeholders, the data were collected through 107 semi-structured interviews to reach saturation. This included 53 children, 38 parents and caregivers, and 16 professionals. Given the importance of the physical qualities of the environment, direct field observations were also made in 15 selected residential complexes in Tehran. The qualitative data analysis was carried out through the MAXQDA software, where 74 concepts, 25 principal codes, and 9 categories were extracted. The codes and categories were integrated and optimized, and their relationship with the core of the research was specified.
Results and Discussions
The results of the data analysis demonstrate that the causal and intervening conditions of children’s independent mobility include the inadequacy of the legal framework and the inefficiency in implementation of plans and their monitoring and evaluation systems. Moreover, CIM is affected by the qualities of the social environment where children live, and the social acceptance and awareness of the community can thus play a role in promotion of CIM strategies. The results further reveal that strategies used to improve the social atmosphere within the residential complex in favor of more independent, freer presence of children include improvement of the physical qualities of the environment, involving attempts made to keep children safe and secure from all possible risks and threats, to plan for playful spaces, to facilitate access to nature and green spaces, and to keep the spaces clean and healthy. As a consequence, the children will enjoy higher degrees of mental and physical health.
Social traps and lack of responsive quality control and evaluation systems for child-friendly residential complexes emphasize the necessity to develop a qualitative framework to promote opportunities for children’s independent mobility and unsupervised play in shared spaces in residential complexes, while meeting parents’ expectations from the quality of the built environment to permit CIM within these spaces.


Main Subjects

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