The situational and relational nature of safety perception in public spaces: a study on the background of feelings of unsafety experienced by children in a Dutch deprived neighborhood
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Although unsafety feelings constitute a serious and prevalent public health problem among children, little is known about the reasons why children feel unsafe at some public spaces. This paper describes what places children between the age of 10 and 12 living in a Dutch deprived neighborhood perceive to be unsafe and the situational and relational factors which give rise to these feelings. We found that children do not perceive public spaces as either safe or unsafe in itself, but unsafety feelings arise at places because of relational factors, based on children’s own experiences or stories about unsafety within the neighborhood. The children used different types of strategies to deal with unsafety, which are similar to strategies used by teenagers. For example, children avoided people they felt unsafe with and moved around in groups at places they perceived as unsafe. Furthermore, the children suggested that safety in public space could be improved by having more surveillance, but also realize that feeling unsafe is sometimes part of life.