How Do Urban Neighbourhoods Impact Parents’ Subjective Well-being?


  • Jaana Poikolainen Youth Research and Development Centre Juvenia, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences
  • Kati Honkanen The School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, University of Eastern Finland



Parents, neighbourhood, subjective well-being, place, space


Introduction: In this paper, parents’ well-being is examined from their subjective point of view of their living experiences in a certain residential area. The subjective viewpoint is relevant as the focus of the research is interlinked with residential areas.

Aims: The research aims to determine what meaning parents ascribe to their residential area (suburb or city centre) as a space for physical, social and psychological well-being. It also aims to discover whether there are qualitative differences between the given meanings of parents living in different areas.

Methods: The data were acquired through semi-structured interviews with parents who live in a suburb or the city centre of Lahti, Finland. Data analysis was conducted using abductive thematic analysis.

Results: The results revealed that physical, social and psychological spaces were experienced differently depending on the residential area in question. In parents’ narration about the physical space, in both areas the basic services were defined as valuable for well-being. Parents living in the suburb experienced the natural environment as an important source of well-being. When talking about the social space, the parents living in the suburb emphasised social networks and the importance of building well-being bridges in their neighbourhood, unlike the city dwellers. The psychological space was connected to the reputation and security of the residential area. An important well-being factor for all parents was the well-being of their children, with an emphasis on the safety of the residential area.

Discussion: Subjective assessments of neighbourhood attributes are more important in explaining neighbourhood satisfaction than any perceived reputation. Parents’ ways of thinking and acting in certain residential areas appear to tie in with the social capital that forms social resources. Almost all parents who participated in this research estimated their well-being as rather high, irrespective of their socioeconomic status, but the city centre residents rated their well-being even higher.


Adler, N., & Steward, J. (2007). The MacArthur Scale of subjective social status. Retrieved from

Ala-Mantila, S., Heinonen, J., Junnila, S., & Saarsalmi, P. (2018). Spatial nature of urban well-being. Regional Studies, 52(7), 959–973.

Bell, S., Phoenix, C., Lovell, R., & Wheeler, B. (2014). Green space, health and well-being: Making space for individual agency. Health & Space, 30, 287–292.

Benson, M. (2014). Trajectories of middle-class belonging: The dynamics of place attachment and classed identities. Urban Studies, 51(14), 3097–3112.

Bernini, C., Guizzardi, A., & Angelini, G. (2013). DEA-like model and common weights approach for the construction of a subjective community well-being indicator. Social Indicators Research, 114(2), 405–424.

Carter, M., & Horwitz, P. (2014). Beyond proximity: The importance of green space useability to self-reported health. EcoHealth, 11(3), 322–332.

Carusi, A., & Jirotka, M. (2009). From data archive to ethical labyrint. Qualitative Research, 9(3), 285–298.

Cartwright, B., White, M., & Clitherow, T. (2018). Nearby nature ‘buffers’ the effect of low social connectedness on adult subjective wellbeing over the last 7 days. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(6), 1238.

Clark, A. (2009). Moving through deprived neighbourhoods. Population, Space and Place, 15(6), 523–533.

Clark, W., & Lisowski, W. (2018). Wellbeing across individuals and places: How much does social capital matter? Journal of Population Research, 35(3), 217–236.

Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 95–120.

Cuellar, J., Jones, D., & Sterrett, E. (2015). Examining parenting in the neighbourhood context: A review. Journal of Child & Family Studies 24(1), 195–219.

Dean, M. (1999). Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society. London: Sage.

Delmar, C. (2010). “Generalizability” as recognition: Reflections on a foundational problem in qualitative research. Qualitative Studies, 1(2), 115–128.

Diener, E., Inglehart, R., & Tay, L. (2013). Theory and validity of life satisfaction scales. Social Indicators Research, 112(3), 497–527.

Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity. (2016). Retrieved from

Gabb, J. (2010). Home truths: Ethical issues in family research. Qualitative Research, 10(4), 461–478.

Garvin, E., Branas, C., Keddem, S., Sellmann, J., & Cannuscio, C. (2013). More than just an eyesore: Local insights and solutions on vacant land and urban health. Journal of Urban Health, 90(3), 412–426.

Gläser, J., & Laudel, G. (2013). Life with and without coding: Two methods for early-stage data analysis in qualitative research aiming at causal explanations. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(2). Retrieved from

Hofmeister, H., & Edgell, P. (2015). The relevance of place and family stage for styles of community involvement. Community, Work and Family, 18(1), 58–78.

Honkanen, K., & Poikolainen, J. (2014). Asuinalueet lapsiperheiden vanhempien hyvinvointiympäristöinä – Subjektiivinen näkökulma [Residential areas as parents’ well-being environments – Subjective viewpoint]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka [Social Policy], 79(6), 679–687.

Ilmarinen, K., Kauppinen, T., & Karvonen, S. (2019). Asuinolot ja niiden alueellinen vaihtelu. [Living conditions and regional variation]. In L. Kestilä & S. Karvonen (Eds.), Suomalaisten hyvinvointi 2018 [The Welfare of the Finns 2018] (pp. 63–78). Helsinki: National Institute for Health and Welfare.

Kemppainen, T., Lönnqvist, H., & Tuominen, M. (2014). Turvattomuus ei jakaudu tasan. Mitkä asuinalueen piirteet selittävät helsinkiläisten kokemaa turvattomuutta [Unsafety is not evenly distributed. Which residential area characteristics explain experiences of unsafety in Helsinki]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka [Social Policy], 79(1), 5–20.

Kleinhans, R., Priemus, H., & Engbersen, G. (2007). Understanding social capital in recently restructured urban neighbourhoods: Two case studies in Rotterdam. Urban Studies, 44(5–6), 1069–1091.

Koistinen, K., Peura-Kapanen, L., Honkanen, K., & Poikolainen, J. (2017). Asumisen arvostukset ja kiinnittyminen alueeseen – Asuinaluekokemuksia Espoosta ja Lahdesta [Living appreciations and place attachment – Experiences from Espoo and Lahti]. Yhdyskuntasuunnittelu [The Finnish Journal of Urban Studies], 55(1), 33–51.

Kroll, C. (2011). Different things make different people happy: Examining social capital and subjective well-being by gender and parental status. Social Indicator Research, 104(1), 157–177.

Kullberg, A., Timpka, T., Svensson, T., Karlsson, N., & Lindqvist, K. (2010). Does the perceived neighborhood reputation contribute to neighborhood differences in social trust and residential wellbeing? Journal of Community Psychology, 38(5), 591–606.

Luhmann, M., Hofman, W., Eid, M., & Lucas, R. (2012.) Subjective well-being and adaptation to life events: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 592–615.

Luhmann, M., Hawkley, L., & Cacioppo, J. (2014). Thinking about one’s subjective well-being: Average trends and individual differences. Journal of Happiness Studies, 5(4), 757–781.

Madill, A. (2011). Interaction in the semi-structured interview: A comparative analysis of the use of and response to indirect complaints. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 8(4), 333–353.

Margolis, R., & Myrskyla, M. (2013). Family, money and health. Regional differences in the determinants of life satisfaction over the life course. Advances in Life Course Research, 18(2), 115–126. doi:10.1016/j.alcr.2013.01.001

Mellander, C., Florida, R., & Stolaric, K. (2011). Here to stay – the effects of community satisfaction on the decision to stay. Spatial Economic Analysis, 6(1), 5–24.

Metteri, A. (2012). Hyvinvointivaltion lupaukset, kohtuuttomat tapaukset ja sosiaalityö [Promises of a welfare state, non-fulfilment of these promises and social work]. Tampere: University of Tampere.

Permentier, M., Bolt, G., & van Ham, M. (2011). Determinants of neighbourhood satisfaction and perception of neighbourhood reputation. Urban Studies, 48(5), 977–996.

Pontin, E., Schwannauer, M., Tai, S., & Kinderman, P. (2013). A UK validation of a general measure of subjective well-being: The modified BBC subjective well-being scale (BBC-SWB). Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 11(1), 1–9.

Rasinkangas, J. (2013). Sosiaalinen eriytyminen Turun kaupunkiseudulla. Tutkimus asumisen alueellisista muutoksista ja asumispreferensseistä [Social segregation in the Turku Area. Research on regional changes and living preferences]. Siirtolaisinstituutti, Tutkimuksia A 43. [Institute of Migration, Research A 43]

Roulston, K. (2011). International Journal of Qualitative Research, 10(4), 348–366.

Runge, J. (2018). Region–city–social space as key conceps of socio-economic geography. Environmental & Socio-economic Studies, 6(3), 13–18.

Samuel, R., & Hadjar, A. (2015). How welfare-state regimes shape subjective well-being across Europe. Social Indicators Research, 129(2), 565–587.

Scannell, L., & Gifford, R. (2010). Defining place attachment: A tripartite organizing framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30(1), 1–10.

Seppänen, M., Haapola, I., Puolakka, K., & Tiilikainen, E. (2012). Takaisin Liipolaan. Lähiö fyysisenä ja sosiaalisena asuinympäristönä [Back to Liipola. Suburb as physical and social residential environment]. Helsinki: Ympäristöministeriön raportteja 14/2012. [Ministry of the Environment, Reports 14/2012]

Statistics Finland. (2015a). Income and consumption. Retrieved from

Statistics Finland. (2015b). Open data by postal codes. Main type of activity 2012. Retrieved from

Strange, C., Fisher, C., Howat, P., & Wood, L. (2014). The essence of being connected: The lived experience of mothers with young children in newer residential areas. Community, Work & Family, 17(4), 486–502.

Taylor, L., Hahs, A., & Hochuli, D. (2018). Wellbeing and urban living: Nurtured by nature. Urban Ecosystems, 21(1), 197–208.

TILDA. (2015). Tilastotietoa Lahdesta [TILDA statistics from the city of Lahti]. Retrieved from

Vaattovaara, M., & Kortteinen, M. (2015). Segregaation aika [The age of segregation]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka [Social Policy], 80(6), 562–574.

Vaattovaara, M., & Kortteinen, M. (2012). Segregaatiosta ja sen inhimillisestä ja yhteiskunnallisesta merkityksestä [Segregation and its human and social significance]. Talous & yhteiskunta [Economy and Society], 3, 60–66.

Vaismoradi, M., Turunen, H., & Bondas, T. (2013). Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting qualitative descriptive study. Nursing & Health Sciences, 15(3), 398–405.

Vilkama, K., & Vaattovaara, M. (2015). Keskiluokka kuin kotonaan? Kokemuksia sosioekonomisesti heikommilla alueilla asumisesta pääkaupunkiseudulla [Feeling at home? Middle class residents’ experiences of living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka [Social Policy], 80(3), 207–220.

Völker, S., & Kistemann, T. (2015). Developing the urban blue. Comparative health responses to blue and green open spaces in Germany. Health & Place, 35, 196–201.

Wouter, P., van Gent, M., & Ostendorf, W. (2009). Disentangling neighbourhood problems: Area-based interventions in Western European cities. Urban Research & Practice, 2(1), 53–67.




How to Cite

Poikolainen, J., & Honkanen, K. (2020). How Do Urban Neighbourhoods Impact Parents’ Subjective Well-being?. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 11(1), 19–38.