CUS> Vol.2 No.1, March 2014

Dispelling Stereotypes… Skate Parks as a Setting for Pro-Social Behavior among Young People

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ABSTRACT

Issue Addressed: Skate parks not only provide a venue for leisure and physical activity, but can also act as an important social space for young people (Jones, 2011). However, skate parks are often subjected to negative community stereotyping (Goldenberg & Shooter, 2009; Bradley, 2010; Weston, 2010, Taylor & Khan, 2011), and there has been a lack of empirical evidence to date to refute or support conjecture about the presence of anti- or pro-social behaviors. Methods: A community survey gathered data on use and perceptions of a skate park within an inner metropolitan suburb of Western Australia. Respondents (n = 387) were asked about the frequency at the skate park of a range of potentially occurring behaviors of both an anti-social (e.g. graffiti, conflict) and pro-social (e.g. socialising, teaching) nature. Observational data of skate park use were also collected. Results: Pro-social behaviours were much more likely to be reported as frequently occurring, with all six of the pro-social behaviors (cooperation, learning from others, socialising with friends, respecting others, taking turns, teaching and helping) noted as occurring often by more than 50% of the respondents. The anti-social behaviours asked about in the survey fall within three thematic categories relating to physical space (egcrowding, collisions and injuries); property damage (eglittering, graffiti and vandalism); and drug use (smoking, drinking alcohol and illicit drug taking). Of these, behaviors relating to shared use of the physical space were more likely to be reported as occurring often or sometimes, in part reflecting the popular use of the relatively small skate park area. Overall, anti-social behaviors were more likely to be reported as rarely or never occurring compared with pro-social behaviors. Conclusions: Concerns about undesirable social behavior often underlie opposition to skate parks or provision for skaters in cities and suburbs. However, actual evidence supporting these assertions is scant, and in this study, pro-social behaviors were far more commonly observed than anti-social behavior. Considered skate park location and planning, and engagement of young people in their design can minimise many perceived problems. More broadly, the visible presence of skate parks and other youth amenity in our neighbourhoods, towns and cities, powerfully signals to young people that they too are welcome and a part of local place identity.

Cite this paper

Wood, L. , Carter, M. and Martin, K. (2014) Dispelling Stereotypes… Skate Parks as a Setting for Pro-Social Behavior among Young People. Current Urban Studies, 2, 62-73. doi: 10.4236/cus.2014.21007.

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