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Connection to nature: Children's affective attitude toward nature

Summary


Children’s connection with nature is influenced by their enjoyment of nature, empathy for creatures, sense of oneness and sense of responsibility

The purpose of this study was to develop an index that captures dimensions associated with children’s connection to nature. By doing so, this study also sought to investigate the factors that influence children’s perceived connection to nature, their interest in participating in nature-based activities and their interest in engaging in environmentally-friendly practices.

Five 4th-grade classes in Brevard County, Florida participated in small-group focus interviews. The information derived from the interviews was synthesized to develop the connection to nature survey. A total of 22 items in a 5-point scale was tested and used for the connection to nature index. Other variables that represent self-reported environmentally-friendly practices, self-efficacy, interest in participating in nature-based activities in the future, previous experience in nature, and family attitudes toward nature were also included in the survey. The survey was administered to 5,500 4th grade students.

The results of this study suggest there are four major dimensions in children’s connection to nature: enjoyment of nature, empathy for creatures, sense of oneness, and sense of responsibility. Other factors influencing children’s behavior toward nature include their previous experience in nature, their family values toward nature, and their perceived control. Specifically, connection to nature is the strongest predictor of students’ interest in participating in nature-based activities. Students’ previous experience in nature and perceived family values are also directly associated with their interest in participating in nature-based activities. On the other hand, students’ connection to nature, their family values toward nature, self-efficacy and previous experience in nature all have direct influence on their interest in environmentally-friendly practices.

This study developed a four factor index that can be used to evaluate 8-10 year old children’s connection to nature, and may be used to expand understanding of how connection to nature is associated with other factors, including a child’s interest in engaging in environmentally-friendly practices.

Citation

Cheng, J., Monroe, M., (2012). Connection to nature: Children's affective attitude toward nature. Environment and Behavior, 44(1), 31 - 49.

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