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A gender perspective on adolescents' perceived safety and security when moving outdoors
  1. K Johansson*,
  2. L Laflamme,
  3. M Eliasson
  1. Correspondence Department of Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Division of Global Health, Nobels vg 9 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract

Adolescents in Sweden can move relatively independently in public space. Girls are, however, in general more limited than boys, for instance due to perceived insecurity in the environment. This study explores Swedish girls and boys understandings of threats to their outdoor safety in connection with their everyday independent mobility, and also how they see the potential threat of traffic. Focus group discussions were conducted with 25 boys and 25 girls, 15–16 years old. Transcripts were analyzed with discourse analysis. To girls, rape was seen as a main threat (and paedophiles to younger children of either sex). Both boys and girls described gangs of aggressive adolescent boys as a major threat, for boys in terms of provocations and violence but for girls gangs were a more ambiguous threat. Traffic was described as unpredictable and fast, often because of irresponsible car drivers. However, many adolescents felt they can compensate for drivers irresponsible behaviour by being careful themselves. In conclusion, sexual and physical violence were seen as major threats and were in general clearly gendered. Traffic, though sometimes threatening, was less prominent, and not described as gendered. To improve safety and security in public space is a matter of gender equity, and needs to take into account both girls higher levels of fear and boys often higher risks of injury.

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