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The contributions of familial and environmental factors to children's connection with nature and outdoor activities

Summary


Parental characteristics and attitudes predict children’s connection with nature and outdoor activities

This study examined the associations between child characteristics, familial characteristics, and Turkish children’s biophilia (innate tendency to connect with nature). The study also examined the association between children’s biophilia and the importance parents placed on their child’s connections with nature and outdoor activities.

Biophilia interviews were conducted with 238 preschool children to assess their connections with nature. The Biophilia interview consists of eleven items paired with two puppets. For each item, children are told about a nature-related characteristic of each puppet (e.g., likes to play outside; does not like to play outside) and then asked, “Which one is more like you?” Answers are coded “1” for biophilic responses and “0” for non-biophilic responses. A summary of these responses is used for a total biophilia score. Parents of the participating children completed a questionnaire about their income, education, and their child’s age and gender. Parents also completed a survey about the importance they placed on children’s experiences in nature or outdoors. This survey included questions about home proximity to parks, frequency of park or green space visitation, and their children’s outdoor-related skills, such as exploring or hiking.

Findings indicated that the importance parents placed on children’s outdoor and nature connection was a significant predictor of their children’s biophilia. Findings also suggested a strong relationship between parents’ educational background and children’s level of biophilia. Children with high school- educated parents had lower biophilic scores compared to children of college-educated parents. Additionally, parents with low income rated their children’s nature and outdoor connections less important than parents with middle and high incomes. These findings are consistent with previous research indicating that parents with lower education and lower income are less likely to permit their children to play independently outdoors. Their reasons can include legitimate safety concerns about their neighborhoods.

Based on these findings, the researchers recommend targeting children with economic disadvantage for outdoor play intervention programs. They also suggest involving parents in their children’s outdoor recreation programs, as parental attitudes play an important role in the time children spend outdoors and in nature.

Citation

Ahmetoglu, E., (2019). The contributions of familial and environmental factors to children's connection with nature and outdoor activities. Early Child Development and Care, 189(2), 233-243.

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