Children's autonomy and our relationship with public spaces

Clément Rivière
The relationship between children and the city-a subject seldom studied in France in the past-has in recent years generated renewed interest in the world of the social sciences. Clément Rivière, who has conducted research in this field in Paris and Milan, shows that the parental structuring of children's outings in the city is based on protected spaces whose safety is assured through mutual acquaintance, and that these (highly gendered) practices tend to be much more restrictive for girls.
more » ... h researchers have, to date, shown little interest in the mobility of children in the contemporary city, and even less so in how this mobility is structured and supervised. And yet learning how the city works and parental instructions and restrictions in this domain are all potential entry points for studying the representations and issues associated with urban spaces: the way children's urban practices are structured and supervised reveals a great deal about city-dwellers' relationships with public spaces more generally. This was borne out by an interview-based survey conducted in the 19 th arrondissement of Paris 1 and the Monza-Padova area of Milan 2 among parents of children aged 8 to 14. 3 Here, we shall consider two aspects in greater detail: the gradated nature of public spaces, leading us to a proposal for a sociological definition of the "neighbourhood", and the specific treatment involved in the urban socialisation of girls.