Geographies of Children, Young People, and Families

Aitken with children

We study the places and spaces of children and young people’s lives, emphasizing their agency in their families and communities. We also focus on child rights and youth activism.


hand drawn map by migrant children

Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Kate Swanson has worked extensively with Central American and Mexican migrant children in the border region, both as a volunteer and as a researcher. She has worked with youth in migrant detention centers in the United States and in Mexico. Her work explores border policies, youth agency, rights, crime and violence.

kumeyaay youths at torrey pines state beach

Indigenous Youth and Childhoods

Kate Swanson has worked with Indigenous youth in Andean Ecuador for many years. Her work explores cultural constructions of childhood as situated within contexts of high poverty and inequality. She has also worked with PhD student Lydia Wood to explore Indigenous constructions of health and well-being in Southern California.

graduate student field work in romania

Children’s and Youth Rights

Stuart Aitken has been involved with UNICEF’s innocenti program working on child migration, qualitative methods and child rights. He is involved with child rights and activism in various countries in Eastern Europe and South America, including Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Slovenia and Romania.

selling girl scout cookies

Child Labor

Stuart Aitken has worked on child labor issues in Tijuana, and PhD student Denise Goerisch carried out a study of the gendered spaces of capitalism as reflected in Girl Scout cookie sales.

Young People’s Food Journeys

Fernando Bosco, Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Blaire O’Neal worked with students from a local high school and SDSU to document, map, and analyze the everyday food routines of young people. The project, which relied primarily on photo-voice methods, shed light on the emotional, social, and cultural relationships between food and place. It pays particular attention to how young people journey through the local food landscape and navigate contradictions between food norms across places, including home, school, and neighborhood.

Erased Children in Slovenia

Stuart Aitken has worked with children and youth from ethnic Bosnian, Serb and Croatian children who lost their permanent residency status and citizen rights in Slovenia during the 1990s and 2000s.

The Sacred Place: Engaging Children in Participatory Planning for Urban Nature

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, Fernando Bosco, and Stuart Aitken worked with 10 to 12 year old children to design an urban nature space in collaboration with local nonprofit organizations, urban planners, landscape architects, and artists. The project provided an opportunity to investigate the significance of nature in young people’s lives and to critically examine the process of participatory planning.



Introduction to human geography. Global and local issues to include culture, development, migration, urbanization, population growth, identity, globalization, geopolitics, and environmental change. Field trips may be arranged.

Geographic analysis of environmental and social issues in the global south. How colonialism, development, and globalization have shaped equity and sustainability issues and access to resources, environmental health, migration, and poverty around the world. Field trips may be arranged.

Survey of the location, function and spread of cities; the spatial and functional arrangement of activities in cities, leading to an analysis of current urban problems: sprawl, city decline, metropolitan transportation. Field trips may be arranged.

Worldwide trends in urbanization. Case studies of selected cities from various culture areas with focus on international variations in city structure and urban problems.