Preferences of Youth for Social Engagement in Neighbourhood-Parks

Project dates: 18/10/2018 - 18/10/2022


Park settings offer youth opportunities for more experiences with nature, physical activity and social interaction, which all contribute to their overall well-being. Additionally, extant research findings confirm that the design of parks strongly affects the social well-being of its visitors in all age ranges. Much research on youth’s use of parks has focused on their favourite settings (e.g., play spaces). However, it remains unknown how other conditions such as social preferences and motives can influence the role of neighbourhood parks in social interactions, including youth-to-youth and youth-to-adult. Further, previous researchers highlight that park settings favoured by youth must afford a range of youth activities that are important to them. Although a focus on physical activity can lead to social interactions, it does not always.


This project aims to expand our understanding of youth social activities and to collect data about the conditions and locations for greater social engagement within neighbourhood parks. To better understand similarities and differences between youth and adult preferences within neighbourhood parks, this study applies the theory of behaviour settings in conjunction with affordances theory to explore motives and preferences of youth social activities, and other ways that they use activities in neighbourhood parks in the Moreton Bay Region of South-East Queensland, Australia. This thesis used a qualitative methodology that included two different youth-friendly data collection methods facilitated between September 2020 and March 2021: a structured activity approach (photo-choice tool) and a participatory approach (one-off workshop). A total of 192 youth aged 9-17 years participated in the photo-choice tool, and a total of 13 youth aged 16-23 years participated in the one-off workshop.



This project found that there is a need for designing zones in parks to provide this group of youth with opportunities for greater interactions and social activities including other park users. It is suggested that park designs should explore the use of mixed-age zones (focusing on different users) in order to foster inclusive activities as well as social activities within neighbourhood parks. Recommendations for equitable parks to be welcoming to diverse users include the provision of affordances for diverse youth-friendly and mixed-age activities and facilities. By creating parks that are socially sustainable and designed using research evidence, we can meet the preferences of all ages, including youth.


Events or Presentations:

  • Ziaesaeidi, P., Cushing, D. F., Washington, T., & Buys, L. (2020, August 11). Preferences of youth for social engagement in neighbourhood parks. DRS2020 Postgraduate Research Day, Brisbane, Australia. [Oral presentation, peer-reviewed, accepted].
  • Ziaesaeidi, P., Cushing, D. F., Washington, T., & Buys, L. (2020, November 4). How youth are socially engaged in parks: A participatory approach for understanding youth perceptions and use patterns. BEYOND 2020, Gothenburg, Sweden. [Oral presentation and 4-page paper published in conference proceedings; peer-reviewed, accepted].
  • Ziaesaeidi, P., Cushing, D. F., Washington, T., & Buys, L. (2021, May 21). Designing age-friendly parks: Using a photo-choice Tool to understand youth engagement within  neighborhood parks. Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA52), Detroit. [Oral Presentation; peer-reviewed; accepted].
  • Ziaesaeidi, P.(2021, August 23). Designing age-friendly parks: a context for intergenerational activities. Sustainability Week, QUT, Brisbane, Australia. [Short conversation and poster presentation].
  • Ziaesaeidi, P., Cushing, D. F., Washington, T., & Buys, L. (2022, October). Are youth socially active in parks? using a photo tool to understand youth perceptions. Child in the City Word Conference, Dublin, Ireland. Oral presentation and conference proceeding [peer-reviewed, accepted].
  • Ziaesaeidi, P. (2021, November 5). Mixed-age parks: The designing of new generation parks. EMBL Australia [Postgraduate symposium]. On Giant’s Shoulders: Adapting to an Ever-changing World. [Poster presentation].


Chief Investigator


Principal Supervisor: A/Prof. Debra Cushing

Associate Supervisor: Prof. Laurie Buys
Associate Supervisor: Dr Tracy Washington