Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Area planning & development, Urban planning, Housing -- Psychological aspects, Child psychology



Physical Description

3, viii, 156 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


This study is an inquiry into some of the effects of the housing environment on the behavior of children. The city can be seen as a structure which facilitates communication and interaction because of the large number of intersecting individual pathways which the city represents. Young children, however, have little experience of this city: for the most part, their microcosm extends only a few blocks from home. Cities are a function of density and large numbers of people, and these two characteristics are also descriptive of multi-family structures. In the child's microcosm, multi-family dwellings could be considered as the type of communication-facilitating structure which is analogous to the city. The housing environment was examined along its physical dimension (housing environment as a piece of territory), socio-spatial dimension (social characteristics which are descriptive of the territory), and social dimensions (characteristics which are not tied to a specific spatial location). Children's behaviors were examined in terms of strategies for adapting to sensory load produced by the housing environment. Three procedures were used to obtain data: observation of the children, at home and at a day-care center; interviews of both the child and a parent; and a test constructed by J.A. Desor to measure tolerance for social density. The subjects were 32 4- and 5-year-old children enrolled in the day-care center at Portland State University. Protocols of behavior episodes collected in field observation were coded by two coders, and inter-coder reliability was computed. The coefficient for a completely naive coder was 0.76; for a coder familiar with the concept of 'behavior episodes,' the coefficient was 0.86. Convergent validity of the behavioral measures was evaluated using a multitrait-multimethod matrix. ~nile the measures show high face validity, convergent validity was not established for similar measures drawn from the home and school environments. The exception to this was the measures of play-group size, which showed a consistent pattern of convergence. The matrix of correlations of measures which were descriptive of the housing environment showed a fairly clear clustering of the measures along the expected dimensions. A t Test showed that there were significant differences between single-family and multi-family homes. In analyzing the hypotheses, it was found that children living in buildings with more peers show a greater acceptance of social density than children living in buildings with fewer peers. This strategy expressed itself in behavior also, for children living in buildings with more peers also played with more people. The relationship was cross situational, suggesting that this strategy is a 'functional unity,' or a consistent pattern of the child's personality. It was also found that the number of people in the neighborhood was related to the extent to which the child rejected offers for interaction. However, since there were no significant differences in number of people in the neighborhood between single-family and multi-family dwellings, this relationship does not distinguish between apartment and single-family dwellers. It was also found that, if length of time in the present housing unit is controlled, there is a negative relationship between the number of people in the housing environment and the duration of play activity. No differences were found in the amount of solitary play or the number of settings used.


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Portland State University. Ph.D. Program in Urban Studies.

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