Published on August 9, 2007
Social and Civic Life in the Suburbs: Social and Civic Life in the Suburbs Jane Gray, Mary P. Corcoran, Michel Peillon Department of Sociology/NIRSA NUI Maynooth Project Funded by the Royal Irish Academy Third Sector Research Programme New Urban Living Project Research Objectives: New Urban Living Project Research Objectives Investigation of social life in suburban locations across three dimensions Family life, including household work strategies and networks of social support in the community Sense of place and the construction of social identity Local participation in social and public life Comparative research strategy Age of suburb Distance from metropolitan centre Research Strategy: Research Strategy Study Locations Ratoath, County Meath Lucan/Esker, Co. Dublin Leixlip,Co. Kildare Mullingar, Co. Westmeath Data Collection Survey Focus groups In-depth interviews Social capital and quality of life : Social capital and quality of life Putnam gives three main reasons for the decline in social capital all linked to metropolitan sprawl: Residents live at distance from work and spend less time in the locality Suburban development produces homogeneous residential areas that are not conduicive to local civic engagement Suburban sprawl undermines the ‘boundedness’ associated with community living Family Friendly Communities?: Family Friendly Communities? Life stage neighbourhood fit: With the exception of Leixlip, two parent families with young children made up at least half of all households in our case studies. In Ratoath, 70% of households were comprised of such families Networks of social support: Local social embeddedness mediated by family life stage. Couples with very young children report lower numbers of local non-family social ties than those whose children are older, relying more on family members for social support. Scaling back: Couples in three of the four suburbs scale back, but Ratoath couples do so earlier and to a greater extent than couples in Mullingar or Lucan. Family Life Stage (Couples): Family Life Stage (Couples) Work Family Strategies: Work Family Strategies Level of place attachment: Level of place attachment Place attachment : Place attachment The built environment/idea of rurality Associational life The culture of place and symbolic locale (character and tradition) Concern that places are changing Impact of over-development Decline in nature and type of involvement in local community Place signifers increasingly symbolic rather than substantive Membership of local voluntary associations: Membership of local voluntary associations Composition of membership: Composition of membership Social participation and activism: Social participation and activism Mediated by family life-stage and networks of social support Ratoath High participation in local organizations oriented towards providing services to residents High level of activism around local issues such as infrastructure and unregulated development Leixlip High participation in the GAA as a meeting point and place of sociability Low level of activism Social participation and activism: Social participation and activism Lucan Low participation in local organizations High level of activism mobilized by civic groups Mullingar High participation in long-established clubs and associations Low level of activism Social embedding emerges as the main explanation in accounting for the level of membership in local voluntary organisations and of social participation in general Discussion and Implications: Discussion and Implications Our research indicates that providing a better environment for family life still governs people’s decisions to move to the suburbs ‘Timeliness’ of move to suburbs by family life stage crucial to quality of social life for residents The ‘family friendly’ community comes at a cost Reproduction of gender inequality Perils of homogeneity Discussion and implications: Discussion and implications Attachment to place provides people with markers of identity and contributes to quality of life There is a link between social participation and quality of life, because members mainly produce services that are directed at children and which relate to recreation, leisure and sociability Local activism higher than NESF survey but takes many different forms.