Young girls in the countryside: growing up in South Northamptonshire

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Although there has been a surge of interest in a geographical approach to the study of children, there is a pro-urban bias in much childhood research. Childhood is seemingly assumed to be an entirely metropolitan experience; there is a paucity of research on rural childhoods. Few studies have investigated girls’ use of outdoor environments, particularly those beyond urban settings. The dominance of pro-urban and ‘malestream’ research tends to hide the experiences of girls living in rural areas. This thesis explores difference and diversity in the lifestyles of 10-15 year olds growing up in South Northamptonshire, employing a multi-stranded methodology including: a questionnaire survey of children; in-depth discussion work with girls centred on child-taken photographs and videos, and interviews with mothers. To try to get close to the lifeworlds of young people, wherever possible their voices are included in the text. The study area represents one type of rural experience - that of an affluent, commuter-dependent area. The theoretical constructs of liminality and habitus are used to help make sense of the use and social ownership of space. A series of factors is shown to interact in various ways to produce complex geographies. Contingency effects of gender, age and location create a multitude of rural lifestyles; there is no universal ‘country childhood’. Girls use and value recreational space in a myriad of ways. Young people often have to share their play spaces, and anxiety, tension and conflict between rival groups is commonplace. Girls and their mothers express concern about stranger-danger, gangs and traffic hazards, and this limits the spatial freedom of some girls. Mothers, deeming the private car the only safe form of transport, determine the spaces in which their daughters spend their leisure time. Rather than providing greater spatial freedom, the rural offers parents more control over their children’s use of public space
    Date of Award2002
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    • University of Leicester
    SupervisorHugh Matthews (Supervisor)

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