Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Gilliland, Jason

Abstract

Children are spending more free time engaged in activities indoors, rather than in outdoor environments such as parks and recreation spaces. Parks and recreation spaces provide amenities that promote physical, cognitive, and social health among children. As it relates to the complexities of children’s living situations, properly measuring children’s levels of interactions with these spaces is poorly understood in geography research.

By examining various attributes of children, this thesis improves on the measurement of children’s levels of interactions with parks and recreation spaces. Research herein utilized household survey data, a high-resolution GIS dataset of environmental factors, and GPS logs from participants ages 9-14 years recruited throughout southwestern Ontario for a mixed-methods project conducted in 2010-2013.

Sociodemographic characteristics acquired from the survey and GPS tracks of the participants were linked to the GIS dataset, which included regional parks-and-recreation geospatial data. To compare measures for estimating levels of interactions with parks and recreation spaces, the merged dataset was examined through an Accessibility-Exposure-Engagement framework. Statistical tests revealed relationships between children’s home locations or sociodemographic characteristics, and levels of accessibility/exposure/engagement with specific parks and recreation amenities. Hierarchical regression modelling, with blocks containing sociodemographic variables, assessed the influence of individual, interpersonal, social, and built-environment characteristics on children’s proportion of free time in parks and recreation spaces.

Results suggest measures of home location’s proximity to parks and recreation spaces do not represent frequency of exposure or duration of engagement to them by children. Child gender, visible minority status, and urbanicity are associated with proportion of free time in parks and recreation spaces. Moving forward, geography research should utilize the most accurate methods for estimating children’s levels of interactions with health-positive environments such as parks and recreation spaces.

Summary for Lay Audience

Canadian children are spending more free time indoors, inactive, and not engaged in sports and recreation activities. These activities are supported by parks and recreation facilities, which can promote physical, mental, and social well-being among children. Previous research has struggled to accurately measure how often children are engaged in these places. Also poorly understood is the level of influence social and economic aspects of children’s households have on their use of parks and recreation facilities.

This thesis compares methods that measure children’s use of parks and recreation facilities and detects traits of children associated with use. Together with geographic data of southwest Ontario, this thesis used both household survey and GPS data from volunteers aged 9-14 years. The volunteers were recruited from schools throughout southwest Ontario. That data was joined to regional data containing locations and types of parks and recreation facilities.

Along with their daily GPS tracks, the volunteer’s home locations were used to uncover what places were close by, what places they went to, and how much free time they spent in them. This approach revealed the most accurate way to measure which parks and recreation facilities are accessible from children’s homes. It also revealed how much free time children spend in them, and which social and economic aspects of children’s lives relate to the type of places they go to and for how long.

In the last several years, there has been shocking declines in Canadian children’s health and activity levels. Given this, geography research on children must use more accurate means for determining what drives children to use healthy places like parks and recreation facilities. This thesis provides evidence for improving the accuracy of geography research involving children. It also helps inform parks and recreation policies seeking to provide better accessibility and use.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 01, 2021

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