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The participation of children, adolescents, and young adults in nature-based recreation


Early exposure to outdoor activities is a strong contributing factor to enduring participation in nature-based recreation

Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 47 adult recreationists to gain information about their experiences of outdoor nature-based recreation during their childhood years and to identify facilitators and constraints to enduring participation in such recreational activities. The intent of the study was to better understand key factors prompting individuals to become involved in nature-based recreation as well as how they maintained their participation in the face of changes throughout their life course.

Participants were recruited through notices in recreational club newsletters, media advertising, and by asking existing subjects to recruit other subjects. Participation was limited to adults living in New Zealand who were active or lapsed in one or more of the following nature-based activities: fishing, tramping (term for hiking used in New Zealand), mountaineering, and freshwater fishing. Interviews ranged from 20 minutes to about one hour in length and were fully transcribed. The participants were predominately male and ranged in age from 22 to 76. Less than 10% of the participants identified themselves as “lapsed” outdoor recreationists.

Inductive thematic analysis was used to identify patterns in participants’ responses. From this, four main themes emerged: the importance of childhood induction; lenient parents; local environment; and ongoing support, mentoring and facilitation. A common feature cited by the participants who maintained a high level of involvement in nature-based recreation was experiences of parents or extended involvement in outdoor activities during their childhood. In fact, most participants started their outdoor activities at a very young age and, for many, this was during the preschool years. For most participants, freedom to explore their immediate environment was a critical factor in building their confidence in the outdoors. This was referred to as the “lenient parent” factor. The physical environment in which participants lived or had access to was also instrumental in their involvement in outdoor recreation, even though for many this consisted of no more than a small patch of nature. Participants indicated that ongoing support from mentors/facilitators played an increasingly important role as they got older.

A number of interpersonal and structural constraints to enduring participation in outdoor recreation were also identified. These included peer pressure, lack of time and/or resources, and social and spatial alienation.


Lovelock, B., Walters, T., Jellum, C., Thompson-Carr, A., (2016). The participation of children, adolescents, and young adults in nature-based recreation. Leisure Sciences


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