The images of the neighborhood and the city among Black- Anglo-, and Mexican-American children



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Past attempts at understanding man's imagery of his environment have generally focused on the adult to the exclusion of the child. If the hope is to one day design environments more beneficial to man, then the needs and the imagery of people of all ages must be understood. This study is an attempt to explore children's imagery or "mental pictures" of their world-their homes, neighborhoods, trips to school, their city and their favorite and disliked places in the community. Ninety-one children were interviewed. They were approximately equally divided among the three ethnic groups-Black-, Anglo-, and Mexican-American, the two sexes, and the two age divisions-elementary and secondary (corresponding to the schools they attended). The children and the interviewers all lived in the same community and all appeared to be of lower socioeconomic class families. Three female adults, one from each of the three ethnic groups sampled, were trained and each interviewed only children of her own ethnic group. Each child was asked to draw a map of the neighborhood and to describe each object that was drawn; the interviewer made note of each map "element" (a unique object that was drawn-e.g., house, street, dog, etc.) and its order of appearance. The child was then asked to draw a map of Houston and the interviewer followed the same procedure. After these two map drawings, the child was then requested to describe all that was seen, smelled, and heard along the way to school; the interviewer recorded the description verbatim. The interviewer then asked what the child's favorite place to play was, and what places were not liked at all. Finally, the names and addresses of the child's three best playmates were obtained. A minimum amount of demographic information was also acquired. This included the child's age, sex, ethnic group, length of residence in the home and in the community, the presence or absence of the mother in the home during the day, the school attended, the number of brothers and sisters, and the means of transportation to school. Strong ethnic differences appeared in the life styles and the imageability of the environment. No sex differences and surprisingly few age differences were found. Black-American children were almost equally divided between those whose mothers worked and those whose mothers were home during the day; this was true for the Mexican- American children as well. Anglo-American children, however, reported most of their mothers as in the home during the day. Most Black- and Mexican-American children walked to school whereas most Anglo-American children went by car or bus. There were highly significant differences in the length of residence in the home and in the community, Black-Americans having lived in both the home and the community the longest, Anglo-Americans the shortest, and Mexican-Americans an intermediate length of time. Marked differences were also found in the proximity of friends. Black- and Mexican- Americans reported their best friends as living on the same block or no more than a block away. Anglo-American children commonly reported their friends as living two or more blocks away. Black-American children drew neighborhood maps encompassing approximately two-thirds of a square block. They drew the home first and usually quite large, averaging 25% of the map area. They drew many home oriented elements (TVs, windows, doors), few novel elements (those not found in Anglo- or Mexican-American children's maps), and relatively few items (elements repeated on the same map). One Black-American child attempted the map of Houston. Mexican-American children drew neighborhood maps encompassing approximately one square block, drew the home usually late in the drawing, and made the home small, averaging 5% of the map area. They drew several novel elements and used items more often than the other two ethnic groups. No Mexican-American child attempted the Houston map. Anglo-American children drew neighborhood maps encompassing about two square blocks, drew the home late or in over one quarter of the cases, drew no home at all; the home was drawn exceedingly small, averaging 2% of the map area. They drew more novel elements than the other two ethnic groups combined and used items frequently. The Houston map was attempted by two-thirds of the Anglo-American children. No ethnic, sex, or age differences existed for positively or negatively valued play areas. Children provided a wide assortment of preferences suggesting a need for variety in children's play areas. An hypothesis of the Black-American children's "constriction " as opposed to the Anglo-American's "mobility" was discussed.



Space perception in children, Drawing, Psychology of