Exploring Marginalized Youth Access to Outdoor Spaces for Recreation in Columbus, OH: Perspectives of Greater Hilltop Community Youth Service Providers

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The Ohio State University

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There is an ever-growing body of research regarding the role of the natural environment in relation to children's development and health. Erik Erikson identified eight developmental stages; adolescence (ages 12-18) is the fifth stage. The main developmental challenge at this stage is identity versus role confusion. During this stage youth ego identity begins to crystalize (Orenstein 2020). Development can be defined as "a lasting change in the way in which a person perceives and deals with [their] environment" (Bronfenbrenner 1979, p. 3). Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory of development identifies five nested structures where development is profoundly affected by events occurring in settings the developing person is present in, and settings the developing person is not present (Bronfenbrenner 1979). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified five social determinants of health: economic stability, education, social and community context, health and health care, and neighborhood and built environment. Using perspectives of organizers, and administrators who work with youth in the Greater Hilltop area, I addressed how marginalized adolescents access outdoor spaces for recreation in their community. Specifically, I explored what outdoor places and spaces adolescents' access for recreation, how they use it, strengths and barriers to currently available outdoor space and association with adolescent health. Results of the study captured how the ecological systems domains influence adolescent access to outdoor spaces for recreation in the Greater Hilltop community and health. All systems were reflected in interview responses except the chronosystem. The mesosystem was the most identified system, which is consistent as the majority of interviewees are involved with adolescents in the out of school setting. This research affirms the need for more research to understand the relationship between natural outdoor recreation spaces in the urban environment and adolescent health.


Outstanding Honors Project Award


adolescence, outdoors, recreation, urbanization, health, attention restoration