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Nature as a moderator of stress in urban children


Nearby nature helps children cope with adversity

This study examined the buffering effect of nearby nature on stress experienced by children living in an urban area in Spain. A total of 172 children, age 10 – 13, participated in this study. Data was collected in four primary schools chosen according to the amount of nature in and around the school as measured by the Nearby Nature Observational Scale. The amount of nature varied from “very natural” at one school to “non-natural” at another school. Of the other two schools, one was “natural” and the other “mixed” (medium amount of nature). The same scale was used to measure the amount of nature in and around each child’s home.

In assessing the school environment, the Nearby Nature Observational Scale considers such variables as the amount of natural elements in the school playground and how natural the views are. For the home environment, variables include the views from the house windows and walking distance to the nearest park.

Additional data — collected through interviews and self-report instruments — focused on the children’s stress level, the amount of nature they perceived around their home and school, and the frequency of stressful events they experienced. Tools for collecting this data include the Perceived Nature Questionnaire, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Stressful Events Questionnaire. Twenty-five items on the Perceived Stress Scale measured the stress level of the children taking into consideration the stressful events registered in the home area; another twenty-five items registered the stress level associated with stressful events in the school area. The Stressful Events Questionnaire addressed the frequency of occurrence of each of five stress-related events children experienced in the last year. These five events have been identified as being the main sources of psychological distress.

Findings indicated that children with more access to natural areas as well as more perceived nature in the home and school environment had lower stress levels than would be expected if nature was not acting as a protective factor. These results suggest that nearby nature bolsters children´s resilience in dealing with stress.


Corraliza, J.A., Collado, S., Bethelmy, L., (2012). Nature as a moderator of stress in urban children. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38, 253-263.


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