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Children's Lived Spaces in the Inner City

This important paper traces the changing experience of growing up in Pittsburgh's Hill District in three distinct eras.

AUTHOR: Eva-Maria Simms

PUBLISHED: The Humanistic Psychologist, 2008.


Children’s lives are tied to particular places, which are the stage where the psycho-logical drama of the human community is played out. This biographical research study investigates and documents the experiences of children’s lived spaces in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The Hill District is a traditionally immigrant and African American neighborhood, which has suffered through segregation, the turmoil of urban renewal, race riots, gang warfare, and drug-related crime. When we look at the history of a particular place, we often forget that its children are raised and participate in the same historical stream. What was childhood like for the children who grew up in The Hill over the past century?

Adapting the ethnographic method of narrative mapping (Lutz, Behnken, & Zinnecker, 1997), 12 African American adults (24 to 84 years old), who spent their childhoods in the Hill District, were interviewed and asked about their childhood roaming spaces. The story about lived space that emerged through the choral voices of the participants is of childhood places marked by political and cultural changes. Each generation of 10-year-olds (1930’s to 2000) lived in the same geographical area, but experienced and lived their neighborhood places in dramatically different ways.

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