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Helping out on the land: Effects of children’s role in agriculture in reported psychological restoration

Summary


Having a work relationship with agricultural natural areas lowers children’s experience of restoration during their free time in those areas.

A study was conducted with 365 children, ages 6 to 13, living in agricultural areas in Spain. The focus of the study was on differences in the perceived restorativeness of the agricultural environment between two groups of children – one group who helped their parents in farm-related activities and one group who did not. This study was based on the understanding (as supported by previous research) that natural areas tend to be more restorative than areas dominated by human-built structures.
Restoration, in psychological terms, generally refers to the recovery of physical and psychological adaptive resources which tend to be diminished in meeting the demands of everyday life. According to attention restoration theory (ART), four qualities enhance restoration experiences – fascination (effortless engagement with the experience of being in the environment), being away (physical and psychological distance from every day demands), compatibility (the way in which the environment meets the individual’s intentions), and extent (how well the environment sustains exploration). The focus of previous restoration studies has been on evaluating the relationship between the physical characteristics of a particular environment and the restorative experiences of its users. What this study adds to previous research is an investigation into the personal and situational variables that might influence people’s restorative experience.
This study was conducted in a school setting but focused on children’s experiences in an agricultural environment. Both groups of children spent recreational time on the farm, but just one group also spent time helping their parents with the farm work. Children were shown a picture of an agricultural environment typical of the rural area where they spent time. The children were then asked to complete a written questionnaire about their experiences in such an area. Items on the questionnaire included questions about their familiarity with the area and the type of activities they engaged in while in that environment (work or non-work). The Perceived Restorativeness Components Scale for Children II (PRCS-C II) was also a part of the questionnaire.
An analysis of the responses indicated that agricultural natural areas do seem to have restorative opportunities for children but to a different degree based on the type of daily relationship the children had with these settings (work or non-work). The restorative value of the agricultural natural areas seemed to be restrained for the children who worked in those areas. Having a work relationship with nature seems to diminish children’s sense of being away, both physically and psychologically, and this may explain, in part, their lower experience of restoration during their free time in those areas.

Citation

Collado, S., Staats, H., Sorrel, M. A., (2016). Helping out on the land: Effects of children’s role in agriculture in reported psychological restoration. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 45, 201-209.

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