ArticlePDF Available

Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult Environmentalism1

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This paper examines connections between childhood involvement with the natural environment and adult environmentalism from a life course perspective. Approximately 2,000 adults age 18-90 living in urban areas throughout the United States were interviewed with respect to their childhood nature experiences and their current, adult attitudes and behaviors relating to the environment. Model testing and cross-validation procedures using structural equation modeling suggest that childhood participation with nature may set an individual on a trajectory toward adult environmentalism. Specifically, childhood participation in "wild" nature such as hiking or playing in the woods, camping, and hunting or fishing, as well as participation with "domesticated" nature such as picking flowers or produce, planting trees or seeds, and caring for plants in childhood have a positive relationship to adult environmental attitudes. "Wild nature" participation is also positively associated with environmental behaviors while "domesticated nature" experiences are marginally related to environmental behaviors.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Children, Youth and Environments 16(1), 2006
Nature and the Life Course:
Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences
to Adult Environmentalism
1
Nancy M. Wells
Department of Design and Environmental Analysis
Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center
Cornell University
Kristi S. Lekies
Department of Human Development
Cornell University
Citation: Wells, Nancy M. and Kristi S. Lekies. (2006). “Nature and the Life
Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences to Adult
Environmentalism.” Children, Youth and Environments 16(1): 1-24. Retrieved
[date] from
http://www.colorado.edu/journals/cye/.
Comment on This Article
Abstract
This paper examines connections between childhood involvement with the natural
environment and adult environmentalism from a life course perspective. Approximately
2,000 adults age 18-90 living in urban areas throughout the United States were interviewed
with respect to their childhood nature experiences and their current, adult attitudes and
behaviors relating to the environment. Model testing and cross-validation procedures using
structural equation modeling suggest that childhood participation with nature may set an
individual on a trajectory toward adult environmentalism. Specifically, childhood
participation in “wild” nature such as hiking or playing in the woods, camping, and hunting
or fishing, as well as participation with “domesticated” nature such as picking flowers or
produce, planting trees or seeds, and caring for plants in childhood have a positive
relationship to adult environmental attitudes. “Wild nature” participation is also positively
associated with environmental behaviors while “domesticated nature” experiences are
marginally related to environmental behaviors.
Keywords: life course, childhood, nature, environmental attitudes,
environmental behaviors
© 2006 Children, Youth and Environments
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
2
Introduction
When I was in fifth and sixth grade my family owned a small log cabin
on a lake in the mountains of Colorado…. I spent a lot of time by
myself in the woods, building cabins, making up stories, and feeding
birds and squirrels. I would sit for hours waiting for animals to
approach and eat from my hands. This… made me an animal
advocate.
- respondent, Corcoran 1999, p. 211
The Life Course Perspective
The life course perspective examines individual lives as sets of interwoven
pathways or trajectories that together tell a life story (Bronfenbrenner 1995;
Bronfenbrenner and Morris 1998; Elder 1995; Moen, Elder and Lüscher 1995;
Wheaton and Gotlib 1997). Each individual has a career or work trajectory, a
family trajectory, a health trajectory, as well as various other trajectories or life
paths. Early experiences can set a person on a particular trajectory toward an
outcome, which will persist unless a turning point occurs, resulting in a shift to a
different trajectory. For example, with respect to the health trajectory, evidence
from life course research indicates that 80 percent of children who grow up in low
socioeconomic status (SES) households are set on a trajectory toward an adulthood
of being overweight or obese with the associated health risks—compared with 40
percent of those raised in higher SES homes (Olson, Bove and Miller 2005). While
the life course perspective has been employed to examine issues associated with
poverty (Rank and Hirschl 2005), health (Wethington 2005), housing tenure
(Kendig 1990), career (Kim and Moen 2001; Wethington 2002), and family life
(Moen and Erickson 1995), the life course approach has not been applied to
examine pathways to environmental attitudes and behaviors.
How might childhood interaction with the natural environment begin to shape a life
course trajectory with respect to environmental concerns and ecological actions?
What specific activities or events in one’s youth are likely to put a person on a
trajectory toward later life commitment to environmentally-conscious behaviors and
attitudes? While a variety of studies have explored children’s relationships to the
natural environment and some researchers have specifically examined the influence
of significant life events among dedicated environmentalists, little research
attention has targeted the issues posed here. These questions have compelling
implications in terms of the formation of future generations’ ecological values,
protection and preservation of the environment, and the long-term viability of
environmentally sustainable cultures. This research begins to shed light on these
issues by using structural equation modeling to examine long-term linkages
between childhood nature experiences and adult environmentalism among a large,
representative sample of adults from the general population. This paper builds on
three areas of prior research: 1) studies examining the effects of outdoor play and
access to nature; 2) research examining the efficacy of environmental education
programs, and 3) significant life experiences research that focuses on the influential
role of early nature experiences among environmental professionals.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
3
Childhood Exposure to the Natural Environment
Outdoor Play and Access to Nature
With the increasing concern about environmental degradation (Starke 2005;
Oskamp 2000) and concurrent cautions regarding children’s diminishing affiliation
with and time spent in nature (Louv 2005), an exploration of linkages between
childhood connection with the natural environment and adult environmentalism is
indeed timely. While a number of studies have documented that exposure to
nature has beneficial effects on children’s psychological or cognitive well-being in
the relatively short term (Faber Taylor et al. 1998; Faber Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan
2001; Faber Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan 2002; Wells 2000; Wells and Evans 2003),
and others describe children’s affinity for the natural environment (Chawla 1988;
Korpela 2002; Moore 1986; Sobel 1993; Sebba 1995), relatively little research has
examined the long-term influence of childhood contact with nature, particularly in
terms of environmentalism outcomes over the life course.
The few studies that do examine longer-term associations between childhood time
in nature and later outcomes related to environmentalism include a wide range of
dependent variables. Several of these studies examine outcomes in adolescence or
early adulthood. For example, Bixler, Floyd and Hammitt (2002) examined the
relation between play environments prior to age ten and adolescents’
environmental preferences within the domains of education, recreation and work.
Results support the idea that childhood play location influences later interest in
wildlands, environmental preferences, outdoor recreation, and occupations in
outdoor environments. Adolescents who, as children, had more often played in
wilderness areas were more likely to prefer a wildland walking path than those who
had mostly played in the yard before the age of ten. Those who played in
wilderness areas also had greater tolerance for living without modern comforts
when presented with a hypothetical scenario and had the greatest preference for
outdoor occupations. Chipeniuk’s (1995) research examined associations between
childhood foraging and later environmental knowledge. People who reported
having foraged the greatest breadth of things—from acorns, arrowheads, and
cattails, to fireflies, fish, and turtles—in childhood had, as teenagers, better
knowledge of biodiversity. Ewert, Place and Sibthorp (2005) examined the relation
between early-life outdoor experiences and environmental attitudes in early
adulthood. Data collected by surveying undergraduate students indicated that
appreciative outdoor activities (e.g., time outdoors enjoying nature), consumptive
outdoor activities (e.g., hunting and fishing), media exposure (e.g., books and
television), and witnessing negative environmental events (e.g., seeing a special
outdoor area be developed) during one’s youth were predictive of later life eco-
centric versus anthropocentric beliefs.
Two prior studies examine connections between childhood exposure to nature and
adult attitudes about nature or plants. Based on a questionnaire administered to
German adults (including both members of the general population and members of
environmental protection organizations), Kals, Schumacher and Montada (1999)
reported a modest but significant correlation between time spent in nature from
age 7 to 12 and adulthood “indignation about insufficient nature protection.”
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
4
Indignation about protecting nature, in turn, is predictive of willingness to engage
in nature-protective behaviors. Lohr and Pearson-Mims (2005) examined the
relation between childhood contact with nature and adult attitudes toward plants.
Results indicated that childhood activities such as picking vegetables, planting
trees, and taking care of plants as well as having grown up living next to a garden
or flower bed were among the most significant predictors of adulthood beliefs that
“trees are calming” and “trees have personal meaning,” as well as having taken a
gardening class in the prior year. Other predictors included having spent time
outdoors with trees or in parks during childhood. Together, these studies suggest
that children’s playtime in the natural environment as well as other experiences
impact later life attitudes, knowledge, or behaviors regarding the environment.
Other research examines the effects of more structured activities such as
environmental education programs.
Environmental Education
Numerous studies have assessed the efficacy of environmental education programs
(for review see Rickinson 2001). This research tends to focus on whether
environmental education programs bring about change in knowledge and attitudes.
Typically, these assessments compare participants to non-participants or examine
pre-intervention versus post-intervention environmental knowledge, attitudes, or
sensitivity scores within a fairly short time frame (e.g., Armstrong and Impara
1991; Pooley and O’Connor 2000; Ramsey and Hungerford 1989). For example,
Jaus (1982) examined the effectiveness of a ten-week environmental education
program addressed to fifth graders. He found significant differences in
environmental attitude scores of the participants compared to a control group of
students who did not take part in the program. When the control group
subsequently received the same instruction, they also showed significantly more
positive environmental attitudes, in comparison with the pre-test. Cross-sectional
data from Kellert (1985) indicates that children who primarily learned about
animals in the context of school or at the zoo were generally less appreciative, less
knowledgeable, and less concerned about animals than were children who engaged
in bird watching, hunting, or belonged to animal-related clubs. While many
environmental education studies focus on knowledge and/or attitudes, some
examine environmental behaviors as well. Ramsey and Hungerford (1989) found
that an “issue investigation and action training” (IIAT) program among seventh
graders yielded significant changes in overt environmental behaviors as well as in
outcomes related to knowledge and sensitivity. One aspect notably lacking from
the environmental education literature is examinations of long-term efficacy of
programs beyond days, weeks, or months. A greater understanding of how
environmental education programs might influence individuals’ environmental
attitudes and behaviors over years, decades and lifetimes would indeed be
valuable.
Significant Life Experiences
Significant life experiences research is an area within the field of environmental
education that has attempted to explore connections between childhood
experiences with nature and adult environmental commitment by employing
autobiographical reminiscence. This work bears some resemblance to a life course
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
5
approach, although the studies typically employ qualitative methods only and focus
exclusively on environmental professionals or activists. These studies do suggest
that childhood experience with nature plays a critical role in setting such individuals
on a trajectory toward environmentalism.
In the first study of its kind, Tanner (1980) asked 45 dedicated conservationists to
describe formative influences in their lives. Hunting, fishing and bird watching
during childhood or adolescence were activities most often mentioned by individuals
who specified the influence of outdoor activities. Tanner (1980, 23) states that
“youthful experience of outdoors and relatively pristine environments emerges as a
dominant influence in these lives.” Several subsequent studies have provided
support for Tanner’s findings. Peterson and Hungerford (1981) and Corcoran
(1999) posed similar questions to environmental educators in the United States;
Palmer (1993) studied environmental educators in the United Kingdom; Chawla
(1999) conducted open-ended structured interviews with established
environmentalists in the U.S. and Norway; and Sward (1999) studied El Salvadoran
environmental professionals. The single most important influence on individuals
that emerged from these studies was many hours spent outdoors in natural
habitats during childhood or adolescence—alone or with others. Other important
childhood experiences included the example of parents, teachers, or other adults
who fostered an interest in nature; scouting and camping; hunting and fishing;
witnessing the destruction or alteration of landscapes or habitats; and media or
books.
The significant life experiences literature provides further evidence that childhood
nature experiences may impact later life environmentalism. However, the exclusive
focus on individuals engaged in environmental careers or activism limits the
generalizability of these findings. There is need for further research examining the
long-term effects of childhood experiences with nature among the general
population.
Modeling Environmentalism across the Life Course
Taken together, prior research evidence suggests that childhood experiences with
nature are associated with adulthood environmentalism. Time spent outdoors in
childhood (Chawla 1999; Ewert, Place and Sibthorp 2005; Kals, Schumacher and
Montada 1999; Peterson and Hungerford 1981)—whether playing (Bixler, Floyd and
Hammitt 2002), foraging (Chipeniuk 1995), bird watching, hunting, or camping
(Ewert, Place and Sibthorp 2005; Kellert 1985; Tanner 1980), or being with another
person (Peterson and Hungerford 1981; Sward 1999)—seems to be associated with
various adult outcomes related to environmentalism. Moreover, participation in
environmental education programs or classes (Jaus 1982; Palmer 1993) and scouts
(Chawla 1999) appear to be salient influences. The current study attempts to
further our understanding of pathways to environmentalism by employing a long-
term, life course perspective rather than focusing on short-term outcomes; using a
large representative sample of urban-dwelling adults rather than a select group of
environmentalists; and utilizing structural equation modeling to allow an
examination of interrelated influences including engagement with both wild and
domesticated nature in childhood, participation in environmental education in one’s
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
6
youth, and nature experiences shared with other people during childhood. Figure 1
is a conceptual representation of the model to be tested. We hypothesize that
adults who, as children, participated more in nature-related activities will report
stronger pro-environment attitudes and more frequent engagement in
environmentally-friendly behaviors. We examine these relationships while
controlling for demographic and socioeconomic variables (including age, race,
gender, income, and education).
Figure 1. Conceptual Model: Childhood Participation with Nature and
Adult Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors
Research Method
Childhood Participation in Nature:
Participation with Wild Nature
Participation with Domesticated Nature
Environmental Education
Time in Nature w/ Others
Pro-Environment Behavior
in Adulthood
Control Variables:
Age, Race, Gender
Income, Education
Environmental
Attitudes in Adulthood
Research Method
Participants
The data used for this study were obtained from a larger study of childhood
environmental experiences and adult sensitivities to urban and community forests
1
(Lohr et al. 1999). The survey included 108 closed-ended questions, averaged 23
minutes in length, and was administered by telephone in Fall 1998. The sampling
frame consisted of adults living in the 112 most populated areas of the United
States, including at least one metropolitan area in each state except Alaska and
Hawaii. Individuals were selected through a combination of random-digit dialing
and listed numbers, and those at the listed numbers received a prior notification
letter describing the purpose of the study. The final sample included 2,004
individuals, representing a response rate of 51.8 percent. Similar studies have
yielded a response rate between 40 percent and 62 percent (Lohr et al. 1999, 6-7).
The demographics of the sample were compared to known characteristics of
residents within each metropolitan area in order to evaluate the possible existence
of sampling bias. Data were similar, indicating that the sample provides a
representative sample of the population (Lohr and Pearson-Mims 2005, 473).
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
7
The respondents ranged in age from 18 to 90, with a mean age of 45 (SD= 15.98).
Fifty-six percent were female and 44 percent were male. The majority (57 percent)
of participants were white (non-Hispanic). Approximately 40 percent had attained
a college degree or higher. Income levels varied considerably, with the largest
proportion (28 percent) in the $30,000-$50,000 category. Approximately 9 percent
earned less than $10,000 per year and 7.5 percent earned over $100,000.
Constructs and Measures
Questions posed to participants included items about the frequency of nature-
related experiences during childhood, their current (adulthood) attitudes and
behaviors, and their socio-demographic background. Responses were either on a
four-point scale or of a dichotomous nature (typically “yes or no”). An exploratory
factor analysis using Principal Components procedures with Varimax rotation was
conducted on a number of items regarding childhood experiences and
environmental attitudes. The independent and dependent variables for this model
are described below.
Appendix A presents additional details on all measures.
Independent Variables: Childhood Participation with Nature
The model includes several latent and continuous variables. The independent
variables were: participation with nature in childhood, participation in
environmental education in childhood, and childhood experiences in nature with
other people.
Childhood participation with nature
Participants were asked how often they participated in nature-related activities
before the age of 11, and responses were scored on a four-point scale ranging from
“never” to “often.” Items with factor loadings above 0.40 were identified and
placed into two factors, Participation with “Wild Nature” and Participation with
“Domesticated Nature.” Experiences with Wild Nature consisted of hiking, walking,
or playing in the woods or natural areas; camping; and hunting or fishing
(Cronbach alpha= .58). Experiences with “Domesticated Nature” consisted of
picking flowers, fruits, or vegetables from a garden; planting trees, seeds, or
plants; and taking care of indoor or outdoor plants (Cronbach alpha= .78).
Participation in environmental education
For this scale, respondents were asked if they had participated in any of several
organized activities before the age of 11: nature or environmental education in
elementary school; nature or environmental education outside of school, such as
through Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or summer camp; and programs aimed at
improving the local environment. Due to the dichotomous nature of these
responses (no= 0, yes= 1), a composite score was computed, resulting in a scale
ranging from 0-3. Because this scale is comprised of dichotomous items, internal
consistency is calculated using Kuder-Richardson 21 (KR-21) rather than Cronbach
alpha. The KR-21 value was .51.
Nature experiences with other people
Participants were asked with whom they spent time outdoors prior to the age of 11.
The questions inquired whether they spent time with a parent or other significant
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
8
adult, a teacher or school group, with a sibling, or with a friend. The responses to
these were also dichotomous (no= 0, yes= 1) and a composite score ranging from
0-4 was computed. The KR-21 internal consistency score was .36.
Dependent Variables: Adult Environmentalism
Two dependent variables were included in the model. Environmental attitudes in
adulthood, which operated as a mediator between childhood nature experiences
and adulthood environmental behaviors, was a latent variable. Environmental
behaviors in adulthood was included as a continuous variable.
Environmental attitudes
This scale consisted of three items reflecting attitudes toward various aspects of the
environment. Participants were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with
the following statements: “You consider trees to be important to your quality of
life,” “Natural areas that are untouched by humans should exist,” and “Humans
have a responsibility to protect nature and the environment.” Responses were
scored on a four-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly
agree.” The Cronbach alpha was .47. This variable was treated as a mediating
variable, as it was hypothesized to function as both a dependent variable—affected
by childhood nature participation—and as an influence on environmental behaviors.
Environmental behavior
This (0-4 point) scale was computed from the dichotomous responses to four
questions: “Have you ever voted for or against a candidate for public office based
mainly on their views about the environment?” (no= 0, yes= 1); “During the past
year, how often have you recycled materials, such as newspapers, glass, or
aluminum cans, in your home?” (not at all= 0, somewhat or very often= 1);
“During the past year, have you participated in any activity or program to enhance
the environment, such as a clean-up on Earth Day?” (no= 0, yes= 1); and, “When
you have free time, do you usually prefer to be indoors or outdoors?” (indoors= 0,
outdoors= 1). The KR-21 was .30.
Control Variables
The model controlled for five socio-demographic variables. These consisted of age,
gender, race (white/nonwhite), highest level of educational attainment (less than
college/college degree), and income (seven categories ranging from $10,000 or less
to $100,000 and over).
Statistical Method
Structural equation modeling (SEM) (Byrne 1994; Kline 1998) was used to test the
hypothesized model and to determine the degree to which it fit the sample data.
SEM was chosen as it allows for the inclusion of latent and observed variables, as
well as multiple dependent variables. In addition, SEM incorporates measurement
error, which is of particular relevance because some of the scales used
demonstrated only moderate levels of internal consistency. Furthermore, the
procedure provides an opportunity to find the parsimonious model with the best fit.
Typically, the structural equation modeling process includes the specification of a
particular model and subsequent testing, modification, and further evaluation. The
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
9
ultimate goal is to find the best-fitting model that yields parameters having
practical significance and substantive meaning (Kline 1998; Hoyle 1995;
Schumacker and Lomax 2004).
As the first step, the total sample of 2,004 was randomly divided in half to allow for
separate model testing and cross-verification. Cross-validation with a random half
of the sample is a rigorous and recommended analytic approach to assess whether
idiosyncrasies of a sample led to a specific model (Crowley and Fan 1997). Amos
5.0 was used to compute the parameter estimates and fit indices using Maximum
Likelihood procedures on one of the two subsamples (n
1
= 1,002). A series of
nested model comparisons (Bollen 1989) was then examined using the chi-square
difference test to determine the best-fitting model. Compared were the baseline
null model (M
0
), revised model (M
1
), fully recursive model (M
2
), and parsimonious
model (M
3
).
The null model (M
0
) or “uncorrelated factor model” served as a baseline model
(Bentler and Bonett 1980). In this model, there were no paths included between
the independent and dependent variables, or between the two dependent variables.
The null model included only the factor analysis aspects of the model. The revised
model (M
1
) included indirect paths from the control variables through the four
childhood nature experience independent variables—participation with wild nature,
participation with domesticated nature, experiences with environmental education,
and shared outdoor experiences—to the dependent variables. Indirect paths were
included from the four independent variables through environmental attitudes to
environmental behaviors. The fully recursive model (M
2
) expanded upon the
revised model by adding direct paths from the independent variables to
environmental behavior. In the fully recursive model, all independent and
dependent variables were linked.
A parsimonious model (M
3
) was developed by deleting paths one by one from the
fully recursive model, starting with those with the least significant estimates, until a
model was found that represented an optimal fit with the fewest necessary paths.
As the final step, this parsimonious model was cross-validated using the second
subsample to ensure that any idiosyncrasies from the data were not influencing the
research results (Crowley and Fan 1997).
Model fit was assessed using the conventional chi-square test, but because the size
of the sample (n
1
= 1,002) would undoubtedly lead to a significant chi-square value
(Hu and Bentler 1995), two additional fit indices were used. The root mean square
error of approximation (RMSEA) is insensitive to sample size; an RMSEA of < .10 is
considered good and <.05 is very good (Loehlin 1998). The Comparative Fit Index
(CFI) has been recommended for large samples; a CFI over .90 is considered to be
a good fit (Hu and Bentler 1995).
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
10
Results
Model Testing and Evaluation
Null and revised models
As shown in Table 1, the chi-square statistic for the null model (M
0
) was 825.46
(120, N
= 1002), p < .001 with a CFI of .727 and RMSEA of .077. Fit indices for the
revised model (M
1
) indicated a better model fit, χ
2
(94, N= 1,002) = 435.35,
p <.001, with a CFI of .868 and RMSEA of .060. Comparisons between the null
(M
0
) and revised model (M
1
) indicated that the revised model was a significant
improvement over the null model, ∆χ
2
(390.11, 26 df, N= 1,002), p < .001.
Table 1. Structural model comparisons, N
= 1,002 (Group 1)
Model df
Χ
2
∆Χ
2
CFI ∆ df RMSEA p value
M
0
Null
120 825.46 .727 .077 .000
M
1
Revised
94 435.35 390.11 .868 26 .068 .000
M
2
Fully Recursive
90 411.45 23.90 .876 4 .060 .001
M
3
Parsimonious
100 417.53 17.82
a
.877 6 .056 .03
6.08
b
.881 10 .058 .87
a
M1 - M3
b
M2 - M3
Fully recursive model
For the fully recursive model (M
2
), the chi-square statistic was 411.45 (90, N=
1,002), p
<.001, with a CFI of .876 and RMSEA of .060. Model comparisons with
the revised model (M
1
) indicated a change in χ
2
of 23.90, (4, N= 1,002), p < .001.
This indicated a significantly better fit for the fully recursive model (M
2
) than the
revised (M
1
) (see Table 1).
Best-fitting parsimonious model
The results of the previous models were then used to develop a parsimonious
model (M
3
). Paths between variables were deleted from the fully recursive model,
beginning with those that had the smallest coefficients which were not statistically
significant. For each path removed, a chi-square difference test was used to
determine if this model was significantly better than the revised model (M
1
) without
being significantly worse than the fully recursive model (M
2
). Paths continued to be
deleted until significant findings for the nested model comparisons were obtained.
The chi-square for the resulting model was 417.53 (100, N
= 1,002), p < .001) with
a CFI of .877 and RMSEA of .056. Comparison with the revised model (M
1
)
indicated that the parsimonious model was a significantly better fit than the revised
model χ
2
(6, N= 1,002) = 17.82, p < .03. Comparison with the fully recursive
model (M
2
) indicated that the parsimonious model was not significantly worse than
the full model, χ
2
, (10, N= 1,002) = 6.08, p < .87 (see Table 1). The parsimonious
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
11
model (M
3
) resulting from the model-testing and evaluation process with the first
half of the sample included paths from experiences with wild nature, experiences
with domesticated nature, and time in nature with other people during childhood to
both adulthood environmental attitudes and adulthood environmental behaviors. In
addition, there was a path from environmental education to environmental attitudes
and from attitudes to behaviors.
Cross-Validation: Direct, Indirect, and Total Effects
To cross-validate the findings, the parsimonious model was re-run using the second
sample subgroup (n
2
= 1,002). Results were similar to the first group, χ
2
(100, N=
1,002) = 405.37, p <.001, with a CFI of .868 and RMSEA of .055, suggesting that
the initial results were not biased by idiosyncrasies of the first sample. R
2
values
were .13 for environmental attitudes and .13 for environmental behavior.
Standardized coefficients, direct, indirect, and total effects are presented in Figure 2
and in Tables 2 and 3.
Table 2. Standardized Direct Effects for Environmental Attitudes, N
= 1,002
(Group 2)
Variable Direct
Wild Nature
.21 **
Domesticated Nature
.16 **
Environmental Education
--
Nature with People
-.08 *
Notes: Dashes represent non-significant paths.
** p < .05
* p < .10
Table 3. Standardized Direct, Indirect, and Total Effects for Environmental
Behavior, N
= 1,002 (Group 2)
Variable Direct Indirect Total
Wild Nature
.26 *** .02 .28
Domesticated Nature
.07 * .02 .09
Environmental Education
--- .00 .00
Nature with People
--- .01 .01
Environmental Attitudes
.10 ** --- .10
Note: Significance tests are only reported for direct effects. Dashes represent non-significant paths.
*** p<.001 ** p < .05 * p < .10
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
12
Figure 2. The influence of childhood participation with nature on
adulthood environmental attitudes and behaviors—the final
parsimonious model with standardized estimates, N
= 1,002
(Group 2)
q
ualit
y
untouch
Environmental
Attitudes in Adulthood
hikin
g
huntin
g
ctive Participation with
Nature in Childhood
Participation with Wild
Nature in Childhood
cam
p
in
g
flowers
p
lants
p
lantin
g
.70
.49
Childhood Participation in
Environmental Education
Childhood Time in Nature with
other People
Pro-Environment Behaviors
in Adulthood
Participation with
Domesticated Nature in
Childhood
.21 **
.16 **
.10 **
-.08 *
.26 **
.07 *
.59
.63
.80 .68
.58
.59
.29
Control Variables:
Age, Race, Gender
Income
,
Education
p
rotect
Notes: Model fit statistics: X
2
= 405.37, df = 100; CFI = .868; RMSEA = .055.
** p < .05 * p < .10
Dashed pathways indicate non-significance when cross-validated with Group 2.
Effects of Childhood Participation with Nature on Adult Environmentalism
Effects on adult environmental attitudes
Consistent with the hypotheses, childhood “wild nature” participation and
“domesticated nature” participation in childhood both had significant direct effects
on adult environmental attitudes. The coefficients were .21 and .16 respectively,
and were both significant at the p <.05 level. Childhood experiences in nature with
other people also had a marginally significant (p <.10) negative effect on adult
environmental attitudes (-.08). However, the effect of environmental education on
adult environmental attitudes was non-significant.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
13
Effects on adult environmental behaviors
In the model, the latent variable, adult environmental attitudes, was expected to
predict adult environmental behavior. Consistent with the hypothesis,
environmental attitudes did operate as a mediator. Specifically, environmental
attitudes are both influenced by various forms of childhood participation with the
environment and have a positive influence (.10) on environmental behaviors.
Moreover, as hypothesized, childhood participation with wild nature had a
significant direct effect on environmental behaviors, as well as an indirect effect
through environmental attitudes. As shown in Table 3 and in Figure 2, the direct
effect was .26, and the indirect effect was .02, yielding a total effect of .28.
Participation with domesticated nature in childhood also was positively associated
with environmental behaviors—with a marginally significant (p <.10) direct effect of
.07 and an indirect effect of .02. Neither childhood participation in environmental
education nor childhood experiences in nature with other people had significant
effects on adult environmental behaviors.
Discussion
The results of this study indicate that participation with “wild nature” in childhood
such as walking, playing or hiking in natural areas; camping; or hunting or fishing
has a significant, positive association with both adult environmental attitudes and
behaviors. People who engaged in these kinds of activities before the age of 11
were more likely as adults to express pro-environment attitudes and to indicate
that they engaged in pro-environment behaviors. In addition, participation with
“domesticated” nature during childhood such as harvesting flowers or vegetables,
planting trees or seeds, and caring for indoor or outdoor plants, is also positively
associated with environmental attitudes, although only marginally associated with
environmental behaviors. Also, as predicted, adult environmental attitudes partially
mediates the relationship between childhood participation with nature and adult
environmental behaviors.
In general, the result linking childhood nature experiences with later life outcomes
is consistent with research findings connecting childhood participation with nature
and various adolescence or adulthood outcomes including attitudes about plants
and trees (Lohr and Pearson-Mims 2005), knowledge of biodiversity (Chipeniuk
1995), indignation about natural protection (Kals, Schumacher and Montada 1999),
occupational and recreational preferences (Bixler, Floyd and Hammitt 2002), and
ecocentric versus anthropocentric beliefs (Ewert, Place and Sibthorp 2005). The
current work also builds on previous findings within the realm of significant life
experiences literature that has documented a relation between childhood
experiences and adult attitudes among environmental professionals (Chawla 1999;
Corcoran 1999; Palmer 1993; Peterson and Hungerford 1981; Sward 1999; Tanner
1980).
The results of the current study suggest that while involvement with “wild” and
“domesticated” natural environments both play a role, participation with “wild”
nature before age 11 is a particularly potent pathway toward shaping both
environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood. When children become truly
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
14
engaged with the natural world at a young age, the experience is likely to stay with
them in a powerful way—shaping their subsequent environmental path. Our
findings regarding participation with “wild” and “domesticated” nature are
particularly related to those of Ewert and his colleagues (2005), who found
“consumptive” outdoor activities during childhood (e.g., hunting or fishing) and
“appreciative” outdoor activities during childhood (i.e., time alone in the outdoors
enjoying nature) to be predictive of eco-centric versus anthropocentric beliefs
among university undergraduate students. Although Ewert and associates provide
relatively little detail concerning the measurement of the independent variable
constructs, their constructs and findings seem to parallel those of the present
study. By including participants from ages 18 to 90, the current study examines
longer-term influences of childhood nature participation, thereby extending the
work of Ewert, Place and Sibthorp (2005).
Some additional context for interpreting the findings of the current study is
provided by Kellert (2002), who argues that it is particularly critical
developmentally for children to spontaneously engage with healthy, diverse natural
environments. The childhood nature experiences that we, in this study, have
characterized as participation with “wild nature” (i.e., hiking, camping or hunting)
may be the most likely to provide the kind natural environment engagement that
Kellert (2002) describes. Conversely, harvesting flowers or vegetables, planting
trees or seeds, and caring for plants may be more structured or programmed,
thereby not allowing for extensive, spontaneous engagement with nature. Kellert
suggests that “It may be tentatively concluded that … children’s [orchestrated or
restricted] contact with nature in modern society does not exert major or long-term
developmental impacts on most young people” (Kellert 2002, 145). This may, in
part, shed light on our finding that childhood participation with “domesticated”
nature had less influence than participation with “wild” nature on adult
environmental attitudes and only a marginal effect on environmental behaviors.
Some findings were contrary to our hypotheses and inconsistent with prior
research. First, participation in environmental education programs (in school, in
scouts, at camp, or in community environmental improvement programs) was not a
significant predictor of either environmental attitudes or behaviors. This result may
reflect the limitations of our operationalization of childhood participation in
environmental education. Perhaps we have tapped into relatively structured modes
of environmental education, rather than more engaging, hands-on versions that
may be more likely to have long-term impacts. In other words, this finding ought
not be interpreted as an indictment of environmental education, but rather viewed
within the context of the specific and somewhat narrow way that we operationalized
environmental education. The items used here may not be an adequate
representation of environmental education programs and also may not be easily
recollected by adults. Moreover, as Rickinson (2001) notes in his review, lack of
specific detail about the kind of environmental education people experienced makes
it difficult to predict positive outcomes.
A second contradictory finding is that time spent in nature with other people during
childhood was marginally negatively associated with adult environmental attitudes,
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
15
and not associated with adult environmental behaviors. This finding indicates that
the more people spent time in nature with others (i.e., parents, teachers, siblings,
friends) during childhood, the less pro-environmental attitudes they are likely to
have as adults. This is contrary to the results of Peterson and Hungerford (1981)
who found that time in nature with others during childhood was among the
influences cited by environmental educators as being influential in their own
environmental path. One interpretation of our finding is that the way this item was
constructed in this study may have tapped into nature-related activities that were
mandatory or in some way unpleasant, rather than providing insight regarding
positive nature experiences with other significant individuals. Moreover, perhaps
solitary play in nature, without the demands or distractions posed by other
individuals, may be particularly critical in influencing long-term environmentalism.
Contributions
This study makes several contributions. First, it extends the life course perspective
to the exploration of human-natural environment relations with a large sample from
the general population. Identifying connections between children’s engagement
with nature and their later life environmentalism is an important empirical and
practical concern. Evidence provided here indicates that early experiences with the
natural environment may indeed set a child on a trajectory toward
environmentalism. While the significant life experiences literature (e.g., Corcoran
1999; Chawla 1989; 1999; 2001; Kellert 1985; Peterson and Hungerford 1981;
Sward 1999; Tanner 1980) has attempted to examine linkages between childhood
nature experiences and adulthood, the focus has been explicitly on a select group of
individuals—environmental educators and activists—not on the population more
broadly. The current study suggests that connections between childhood
engagement with the natural environment and later life environmentalism are not
limited to individuals who work as environmental educators or activists. In
addition, by using structural equation modeling, this study provides a holistic
representation of the overall network of influences on the development of
environmentalism. In particular, this approach provides insight concerning both
direct and indirect (i.e., mediated) pathways to environmentalism.
Limitations
It is important to articulate the limitations of this study so that they might be
improved upon in future research. First, due to the use of secondary data, this
study did not employ scales with established reliability and validity regarding the
various types of childhood participation with nature, adult environmental attitudes
or adult environmental behaviors. Issues related to scale reliability are particularly
evident in some low internal consistency scores (see Appendix A). One might argue
however, that this is not a significant weakness due to the nature of what is being
measured. In particular, for the environmental behavior scale (KR-21= .30), it may
be reasonable not to expect high inter-item correlations. Each item may reflect a
different level of commitment to the environment, such that a person with modest
environmental commitment might recycle but not engage in any of the other pro-
environment behaviors. Future efforts in scale development might employ the
Rasch method. The Rasch approach (Bond and Fox 2001) adopts a probabilistic
measurement approach that reflects the variable difficulty of doing various
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
16
behaviors (e.g., taking a bath rather than a shower, versus giving up one’s car),
and the fact that there are various influences and constraints affecting people’s
ecological behaviors (e.g., whether one’s town has public transportation) (Kaiser
1998). A valuable next step in future studies would be to improve the construct
validity by using standardized measures. These scales might include Kaiser’s
(1998) general measure of ecological behavior (using the Rasch method), or the
New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) Scale (Dunlap et al. 2000), for example.
Another related limitation of this study was its reliance on retrospective self-report.
This methodology compromises the internal validity of the study because causal
directionality is ambiguous. In other words, individuals who perceive themselves to
be environmentalists as adults might mis-recollect the type or frequency of
interaction with the natural environment that occurred during their childhood. In
fact, there has been considerable debate regarding the value of significant life
experiences literature (Chawla 1998; Chawla 2001; Dillon, Kelsey and Duque-
Aristizabal 1999; A. Gough 1999; S. Gough 1999; N. Gough 1999; Payne 1999),
focused partly on the validity and reliability of autobiographical reminiscence. The
current study included participants ranging in age from 18 to 90, the time span of
the retrospective recollection ranges widely—from eight years to eight decades.
This may also affect the validity and reliability of the self-report measure.
Future Research
Ideally, future research ought to employ prospective, longitudinal data—objectively
recording the children’s participation with the natural environment and then
tracking these individuals over 20 years, or more, into adulthood. There would be
multiple advantages to such an approach. First, issues of causal directionality
would be virtually eliminated due to both temporal order and better construct
validity. Measures of participation would have greater validity and reliability than
those relying on retrospective self-report. We would, therefore, have more
confidence that childhood nature experiences do indeed impact adult
environmentalism and not the opposite—that adulthood attitudes color or distort
recollection of what one did during childhood. Second, a prospective longitudinal
approach would allow a more thorough application of the life course perspective.
With multiple data points from childhood to adulthood, trajectories and turning
points could be more clearly identified and traced over time. For example, one
theme in the literature, but not included in this study, concerns experiences of
having a special childhood natural area destroyed by development (Corcoran 1999;
Chawla 1999; Ewert, Place and Sibthorp 2005). A prospective study would allow a
greater understanding of whether such an experience might constitute a turning
point—shifting a person from a pathway of environmental indifference toward one
of environmental advocacy or commitment.
Even in future cross-sectional or retrospective studies, efforts could be made to
improve the validity of the measurement of childhood participation with nature by
moving away from self-report. If a prospective study were not possible, another
approach might be to ask a parent or sibling to retrospectively report the
individual’s childhood engagement with nature. This would be another strategy to
move the research beyond the mono-method bias threat to internal validity due to
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
17
the potentially spurious relationship between childhood nature participation and
adult environmentalism.
An additional area for future study concerns gaining an understanding of how
different people might follow different pathways from childhood experiences to
adulthood environmentalism. The current study suggests that types of nature
experiences people have as children partially explain differences in adult
environmentalism. Yet, these paths may differ from one person or group to
another. In fact, different types of engagement with nature in childhood may
mediate associations between socio-demographic characteristics—such as gender,
race, and socioeconomic status—and environmentalism. Future research might
examine whether boys versus girls, white versus black, or wealthy versus poor
children are more likely to engage with nature in specific ways and how that
participation in turn may influence environmental attitudes and behaviors. Further
exploration of the varied pathways to environmentalism would contribute to the
development of environmental programs and targeting of specific outdoor
opportunities toward particular youth populations.
On another level, research might look more closely at explanatory or mediating
mechanisms concerning how or why childhood nature experiences bolster
environmental attitudes and behaviors. What is (are) the underlying
mechanism(s)? For example, by spending time in nature, do people develop a
sense of connection to the environment, build a greater knowledge structure
regarding plants and animals, or gain a sense of responsibility or stewardship for
nature which ultimately leads to environmental commitment? Ewert and colleagues
(2005) speculate how early childhood outdoor experiences may influence
subsequent environmentalism. They suggest three ways that childhood
participation in nature may affect the development of individual’s values. First,
involvement with nature may “precondition” a child toward pro-environment beliefs
and attitudes. Second, the social context within which a youngster participates in
natural environment activities may exert pro-environment social influences. Third,
early nature experiences may lead a child to first feel attached to a specific natural
place and later to generalize those feelings to the natural environment more
broadly. Chipeniuk (1995), who documents a relationship between childhood
foraging for natural objects and adolescent knowledge of biodiversity, provides
additional insight. It may be that by foraging or perhaps otherwise engaging with
or informally cataloging one’s local environment, children build a framework for
understanding the world around them. Chipenuik (1995, 507-508) suggests:
If in fact children do much of their learning about biodiversity and about the
effects people have on biodiversity by making use of natural resources, then
societies pursuing the goal of sustainability might do better to encourage
childhood foraging.
Gaining a clearer understanding of the specific cognitive, affective, social or other
mechanisms that underlie the pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult
environmentalism is not only of theoretical interest, but can also help us to identify
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
18
leverage points that might be targeted in the development of effective, engaging
natural environment opportunities for youth.
Conclusions and Implications
I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are
- fourth grader (Louv 2005)
Children living in the United States today reportedly spend, on average, 30 minutes
of unstructured time outdoors each week (Hofferth and Sandberg 2000).
Increasingly, children spend time indoors—watching television, playing video
games, and using computers. In fact, while children age 3 to 12 spend 1 percent of
their time outdoors, they spend 27 percent of their time watching television
(Hofferth and Sandberg 2000). In addition to its likely contributions to epidemics of
childhood inactivity and obesity (Luepker 1999; Sturm 2005) and possibly to rates
of Attention Deficit Disorder (Kuo and Faber Taylor 2004), youth spending so little
time outside may also lead to a dwindling knowledge about biodiversity (Chipeniuk
1995) and, as this study suggests, less pro-environmental attitudes and reduced
participation in environmentally friendly behaviors as adults. Encouraging children
to become engaged with the natural world, preserving habitats where they can do
so, and creating programs and opportunities for this to occur may be critical to the
future of healthy children, healthy adults, and a healthy planet.
Endnote
1. This project was supported by the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, the College of
Human Ecology, and Hatch grant 327-416 at Cornell University. Raw data were
provided by the U.S. Forest Service project WAUF-97-02, funded by the National Urban
and Community Forestry Advisory Council, and Washington State University. Thanks to
Virginia I. Lohr, Caroline Pearson-Mims, John Tarnai, and Don Dillman for sharing these
data. Thanks to Françoise Vermeylen and Karen Grace-Martin, both at Cornell
University, for statistical consultation.
Nancy M. Wells is an Assistant Professor in Design and Environmental Analysis and
the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center within the College of Human Ecology at
Cornell University. As an environmental psychologist, Dr. Wells is interested in the
impact of built and natural aspects of the residential environment on human health
and well-being through the life course. Her work concerns the influence of nearby
nature on cognitive functioning and psychological well-being, the study of housing
transitions among impoverished urban families, and the effects of neighborhood
design on physical activity.
Kristi S. Lekies is a Research Associate in the Department of Human Development
and Associate Director of the Cornell Early Childhood Program. Her interests focus
on initiatives to improve the quality of early care and education, children’s
participation in society, garden-based learning, and children’s engagement in
community life, particularly for very young children. She is also interested in the
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
19
study of childhood from a cross-cultural perspective, looking at the diversity of
children’s experiences in the United States and abroad.
References
Armstrong, J.B. and J.C. Impara (1991). “The Impact of an Environmental
Education Program on Knowledge and Attitude.” Journal of Environmental
Education 22(4): 36-40.
Bentler, P.M and Bonett, D.G. (1980). “Significance Tests and Goodness-of-Fit in
the Analysis of Covariance Structures.” Psychological Bulletin 88: 588-606.
Bixler, R.D., M.F. Floyd and W.E. Hammitt (2002). “Environmental
Socialization: Quantitative Tests of the Childhood Play Hypothesis.” Environment
and Behavior 34(6): 795-818.
Bollen, K.A. (1989). Structural Equations with Latent Variables. New York: John
Wiley & Sons.
Bond, T.G. and C.M. Fox (2001). Applying the Rasch Model: Fundamental
Measurement in the Human Sciences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Publishers.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1995). “The Bioecological Model from a Life Course
Perspective: Reflections of a Participant Observer.” In Moen, P., G.H. Elder, Jr.,
and K. Lüscher, eds. Examining Lives in Context: Perspectives on the Ecology of
Human Development. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 599-
618.
Bronfenbrenner, U. and P. Morris (1998). “The Ecology of Developmental
Processes.” In Damon, W. and R. Lerner, eds. Handbook of Child Psychology, 5th
ed. New York: Wiley, 992-1028.
Byrne, B. (1994). Structural Equation Modeling with EQS and EQS/ Windows.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Chawla, L. (1988). “Children’s Concern for the Natural Environment.” Children’s
Environment Quarterly 5: 13-20.
Chawla, L. (1998). “Significant Life Experiences Revisited: A Review of Research
on Sources of Environmental Sensitivity.” The Journal of Environmental Education
29(3): 11-21.
Chawla, L. (1999). “Life Paths into Effective Environmental Action.” The Journal
of Environmental Education 31(1): 15-26.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
20
Chawla, L. (2001). “Significant Life Experiences Revisited Once Again: Response
to Vol. 5(4) ‘Five Critical Commentaries of Significant Life Experience Research in
Environmental Education’.” Environmental Education Research 7(4): 451-461.
Chipeniuk, R. (1995). “Childhood Foraging as a Means of Acquiring Competent
Human Cognition about Biodiversity.” Environment and Behavior 27(4): 490-512.
Corcoran, P.B. (1999). “Formative Influences in the Lives of Environmental
Educators in the United States.” Environmental Education Research 5(2), 207–220.
Crowley, S.L. and X. Fan (1997). “Structural Equation Modeling: Basic Concepts
and Applications in Personality Assessment Research.” Journal of Personality
Assessment 68(3): 508-531.
Dillon, J., E. Kelsey and A.M. Duque-Aristizabal (1999). “Identity and Culture:
Theorizing Emergent Environmentalism.” Environmental Education Research 5(4):
395.
Dunlap, R.E., K.D. Van Liere, A.G. Mertig and R.E. Jones (2000). “Measuring
Endorsement of the New Ecological Paradigm: A Revised NEP Scale.” Journal of
Social Issues 56(3): 425–442.
Elder, G.H., Jr., (1995). “The Life Course Paradigm: Social Change and Individual
Development.” In Moen, P., G.H. Elder, Jr., and K. Lüscher, eds. Examining Lives
in Context: Perspectives on the Ecology of Human Development. Washington, D.C.:
American Psychological Association, 599-618.
Ewert, A., G. Place and J. Sibthorp (2005). “Early-Life Outdoor Experiences and
an Individual’s Environmental Attitudes.” Leisure Sciences 27: 225-239.
Faber Taylor, A.F., F.E. Kuo and W.C. Sullivan (2001). “Coping with ADD: The
Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings.” Environment and Behavior 33(1):
54-77.
Faber Taylor, A.F., F.E. Kuo and W.C. Sullivan (2002). “Views of Nature and
Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner-City Children.” Journal of Environmental
Psychology 22: 49-63.
Faber Taylor, A.F., A. Wiley, F.E. Kuo and W.C. Sullivan (1998). “Growing Up
in the Inner City: Green Spaces as Places to Grow.” Environment and Behavior
30(1): 3-27.
Gough, A. (1999). “Kids Don’t Like Wearing the Same Jeans as Their Mums and
Dads: So Whose ‘Life’ Should Be in Significant Life Experience Research?”
Environmental Education Research 5(4): 383-394.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
21
Gough, N. (1999). “Surpassing Our Own Histories: Autobiographical Methods for
Environmental Education Research.” Environmental Education Research 5(4): 407-
418.
Gough, S. (1999). “Significant Life Experiences (SLE) Research: A View from
Somewhere.” Environmental Education Research 5(4): 353-363.
Hofferth, S. and J. Sandberg (2001). “Changes in American Children’s Time,
1981–1997.” In Hofferth, S.L. and T.J. Owens, eds. Children at the Millennium:
Where Have We Come From, Where Are We Going? Oxford, England: Elsevier
Science.
Hoyle, R.H. (1995). “The Structural Equation Modeling Approach: Basic Concepts
and Fundamental Issues.” In Hoyle, R.H., ed. Structural Equation Modeling:
Concepts, Issues and Applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1-15.
Hu, L., and P.A. Bentler (1995). “Evaluating Model Fit.” In Hoyle, R.H., ed.
Structural Equation Modeling: Concepts, Issues, and Applications. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage Publications, 76-99.
Jaus, H.H. (1982). “The Effect of Environmental Education Instruction on
Children’s Attitudes Toward the Environment.” Science Education 11(3): 114-116.
Kahn, P.H. and S.R. Kellert, eds. (2002). Children and Nature: Psychological,
Sociocultural and Evolutionary Investigations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kaiser, F.G. (1998). “A General Measure of Ecological Behavior.” Journal of
Applied Social Psychology 28(5): 395-422.
Kals, E., D. Schumacher and L. Montada (1999). “Emotional Affinity toward
Nature as a Motivational Basis to Protect Nature.” Environment and Behavior 31:
178-202.
Kellert, S.R. (1985). “Attitudes toward Animals: Age-Related Development among
Children.” Journal of Environmental Education 16(3): 29-39.
Kellert, S.R. (2002). “Experiencing Nature: Affective, Cognitive, and Evaluative
Development in Children.” In Kahn, P.H. and S.R. Kellert, eds. Children and
Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural and Evolutionary Investigations. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
Kendig, H.L. (1990). “A Life Course Perspective on Housing Attainment.” In Myers,
D., ed. Housing Demography: Linking Demographic Structure and Housing Markets.
Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 133-156.
Kim, J.E. and P. Moen (2001). “Is Retirement Good or Bad for Subjective Well-
Being?” Current Directions in Psychological Science 10(3): 83–86.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
22
Kline, R.B. (1998). Principles and Practice of Structural Equation Modeling. New
York: The Guilford Press.
Korpela, K. (2002). “Children’s Environments.” In Bechtel, R.B. and A. Churchman,
eds. Handbook of Environmental Psychology. New York: John Wiley, 363-373.
Kuo, F.E. and A. Faber Taylor (2004). “A Potential Natural Treatment for
Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence from a National Study.”
American Journal of Public Health 94(9): 1580–1586.
Loehlin, J.C. (1998). Latent Variable Models: An Introduction to Factor, Path, and
Structural Analysis. (3
rd
Ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Lohr, V.I. and C.H. Pearson-Mims (2005). “Children’s Active and Passive
Interactions with Plants Influence Their Attitudes and Actions toward Trees and
Gardening as Adults.” Hort Technology 15(3): 472–476.
Lohr, V.I., C.H. Pearson-Mims, J. Tarnai and D. Dillman (1999). “A
Multicultural Survey of the Influence of Childhood Environmental Experiences on
Adult Sensitivities to Urban and Community Forests.” Social and Economic Sciences
Research Center. Washington State University, Pullman, WA.
Louv. R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit
Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Luepker, R.V. (1999). “How Physically Active Are American Children and What
Can We Do about It?” International Journal of Obesity 23(2): S12- S17.
Moen, P., G.H. Elder and K. Lüscher, eds. (2001). Examining Lives in Context:
Perspectives on the Ecology of Human Development. Washington, D.C.: American
Psychological Association.
Moen, P. and M.A. Erickson (1995). “Linked Lives: A Transgenerational
Approach to Resilience.” In Moen, P., G.H. Elder and K. Luscher, eds. Examining
Lives in Context: Perspectives on the Ecology of Human Development. Washington,
D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Moore, R.C. (1986). Childhood’s Domain. London: Croom Helm.
Olson, C.M., C.F. Bove and E.O. Miller (2005). “Growing up Poor: Implications
for Body Weight in Adulthood.” Presented at Community Nutrition Seminar,
Division of Nutritional Sciences. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. March 7.
Oskamp, S. (2000). “Psychological Contribution to Achieving an Ecologically
Sustainable Future for Humanity.” Journal of Social Issues 56(3): 373-390.
Palmer, J.A. (1993). “Development of Concern for the Environment and Formative
Experiences of Educators.” Journal of Environmental Education 24(3): 26–30.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
23
Payne, P. (1999). “The Significance of Experience in SLE Research.” Environmental
Education Research 5(4): 365-381.
Peterson, N.J., and H.R. Hungerford (1981). “Developmental Variables
Affecting Environmental Sensitivity in Professional Environmental Educators.” In
Sacks, A.B., L.A. Iozzi, J.M. Schultz, and R. Wilke, eds. Current Issues in
Environmental Education and Environmental Studies, Vol 7. Columbus, OH: ERIC.
Pooley, J.A. and M. O’Connor (2000). “Environmental Education and Attitudes:
Emotions and Beliefs Are What Is Needed.” Environmental and Behavior 32(5):
711-723.
Ramsey, J.M. and H. Hungerford (1989). “The Effects of Issue Investigation and
Action Training on Environmental Behavior in Seventh Grade Students.” Journal of
Environmental Education 20(4): 29-34.
Rank, M.R. and T.A. Hirschl (2005). “Likelihood of Using Food Stamps during
Adulthood Years.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 37: 137–146.
Rickinson, M. (2001). “Learners and Learning in Environmental Education: A
Critical Review of the Evidence.” Environmental Education Research 7(3): 207–
320.
Schumacker, R.E. and R.G. Lomax (2004). A Beginner’s Guide to Structural
Equation Modeling, 2nd Ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
.
Sebba, R. (1995). “From Barnyards to Backyards: An Exploration through Adult
Memories and Children’s Narratives in Search of an Ideal Playscape.” Children’s
Environments 12(3): 362–380.
Sobel, D. (1993). Children’s Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens and B
Bush Houses in Middle Childhood. Tucson, AZ: Zephyr.
Starke, L., ed. (2005). State of the World 2005. A Worldwatch Institute Report.
New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Sturm, R. (2005). “Childhood Obesity: What We Can Learn from Existing Data on
Societal Trends, Part 1. Preventing Chronic Disease [serial online] 2(1): 1-9.
Available from:
http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2005/jan/04_0038.htm.
Sward, L.L. (1999). “Significant Life Experiences Affecting the Environmental
Sensitivity of El Salvadoran Environmental Professionals.” Environmental Education
Research 5(2): 201- 206.
Tanner, T. (1980). “Significant Life Experiences: A New Research Area in
Environmental Education.” Journal of Environmental Education 11(4): 20-24.
Nature and the Life Course: Pathways from Childhood Nature Experiences…
24
Wells, N.M. (2000). “At Home with Nature: The Effects of Nearby Nature on
Children’s Cognitive Functioning.” Environment and Behavior 32(6): 775-795.
Wells, N.M. and G.W. Evans (2003). “Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress
among Rural Children.” Environment and Behavior 35(3): 311-330.
Wethington, E. (2002). “The Relationship of Work Turning Points to Perceptions of
Psychological Growth and Change.” Advances in Life Course Research: New
Frontiers in Socialization 7: 111-131.
Wethington, E. (2005). “An Overview of the Life Course Perspective: Implications
for Health and Nutrition.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 37(3): 115-
120.
Wheaton, B. and I.H. Gotlib (1997). “Trajectories and Turning Points over the
Life Course: Concepts and Themes.” In Gotlib, I.H. and B. Wheaton, eds. Stress
and Adversity over the Life Course. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University
Press, 1-25.
Appendix A. Items comprising Independent and Dependent Variables
(N=2004)
INDEPENDENT
VARIABLES
Internal
Consistency
1
ITEMS
(With X
¯
(sd) for continuous items and percent Yes and No for
dichotomous items)
Wild Nature
Participation
X
¯
= 2.75 (.78)
α = .58
(3 items)
Hiking, walking, or playing in the woods or natural areas
X
¯
=3.45 (.81)
Camping X
¯
= 2.42 (1.14)
Hunting or fishing X
¯
= 2.39 (1.19)
Domesticated Nature
Participation
X
¯
= 2.81 (.89)
α = .78
(3 items)
Picking flowers, fruits, or vegetables from a garden
X
¯
=3.02 (1.03)
Planting trees, seeds, or plants X
¯
=2.64 (1.07)
Taking care of indoor or outdoor plants X
¯
=2.75 (1.10)
Environmental Education*
X
¯
= 1.18 (1.0)
KR-21=.51
(3 items)
Participation in activities before the age of 11:
Nature or environmental education (EE) in elementary school
31% Y, 69% N
Nature or EE outside of school, such as through Boy Scouts,
Girl Scouts, or summer camp 60% Y, 40% N
Programs to improve the local environment 27% Y, 72% N
Time in Nature with Others
X
¯
= 2.66 (1.02))
KR-21=.36
(4 items)
With whom did you spend time outdoors prior to the age of 11:
Parent or other significant adult 63% Y, 37% N
Teacher or school group 39% Y, 61% N
Sibling 76% Y, 34% N
Friend 88% Y, 12% N
DEPENDENT VARIABLES
Environmental Attitudes in
Adulthood
X
¯
= 3.80 (.33)
α = .47
(3 items)
You consider trees to be important to your quality of life.
X
¯
=3.80 (.50)
Natural areas that are untouched by humans should exist.
X
¯
=3.74 (.61)
Humans have a responsibility to protect nature and the
environment. X
¯
=3.90 (.34)
Pro-Environment Behavior
in Adulthood
X
¯
= 2.11 (.92)
KR-21=.30
(4 items)
When you have free time, do you usually prefer to be indoors
or outdoors? 76% Y, 24% N
Have you ever voted for or against a candidate for public
office based mainly on their views about the environment? 25%
Y, 75% N
During the past year, how often have you recycled materials,
such as newspapers, glass, or aluminum cans, in your home?
(0=not at all, 1=somewhat or very often). 89% Y, 11% N
During the past year, have you participated in any activity or
program to enhance the environment, such as clean-up on Earth
Day? 25% Y, 75% N
Dichotomous (no=0, yes=1); composite score 0-4 was computed by
summing.
1. For scales consisting of items measured on a continuous scale, Cronbach alpha was
calculated. For scales employing dichotomous items, Kuder-Richardson 21 (KR21) was
calculated.
1-4 score based on mean of 3 items (strongly agree to strongly disagree).
0-4 score, computed by summing 4 dichotomous items.
0-3 score, computed by summing 3 dichotomous items.
... Kellert 2002;Davis, Rea, and Waite 2006); the latter proposing that children aged 0-6 years demonstrate innate aesthetic, naturalistic, humanistic and moralistic values and learn negativistic and symbolic values through adults' mediation of risk and language. Spending time outdoors in childhood is believed to contribute to the development of 'environmental interest, concern or action' (Chawla and Cushing 2007, 440), including environmentalism (Wells and Lekies 2006) and connectedness to nature (Lumber, Richardson, and Sheffield 2017). Hedefalk, Almqvist, and Östman (2015) remark that, despite little supporting evidence, it is frequently assumed that environmental knowledge in children leads to pro-environmental behaviour. ...
... Although there is strong support for positive nature experiences in childhood leading to environmental interest, concern, and action (e.g. Chawla and Cushing 2007;Wells and Lekies 2006), the connection between caring for animals and plants in early years and the development of proenvironmental behaviour is less clear since 'We cannot assume that caring for species leads to caring for ecosystems' (Vining 2003, 96). Elliott (2017, 13) argues that in early years, 'sustainability is assumed to be about caring for nature without deeper and critical questioning'. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article reports how Swedish teachers’ aims and practices were modified by an ecosystem services development project that introduced insect hotels, bird boxes and planting to ten preschool yards. Teachers’ understanding of ecosystem services, human-nature relationships and the impact of these on nature connectedness showed that their conceptualisations of human-nature relationships were shifting and complex, reflecting overlapping ideas about what schoolyard ecosystem services might mean to/for young children and how children’s connection with nature might best be supported. The findings suggest creating pockets of urban nature in schoolyards is a useful strategy to unpack some of this complexity through direct experience of ecosystems encouraging interest in, concern for and understanding of our mutuality with nature.
... Det finns mycket forskning som dokumenterar hur vistelse i natur kan stödja barns välbefinnande och hälsa i olika dimensioner, deras utveckling av olika sociala och kognitiva förmågor och olika livskompetenser (Chawla, 2015;Hartig et al., 2014;Nordström 2014;Wells et al. 2019). Dessutom bedöms personliga erfarenheter av att vistas i naturen vara en kritisk faktor för att utveckla en känslomässig samhörighet med naturen och omsorg om miljön (Wells, 2006). Det finns också miljöpedagogisk forskning som behandlar naturens bidrag till barns informella och formella lärande (Fägerstam 2012;Jordet 2010;Kuo m fl. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Children´s opportunities to contact with animals in everyday life are sparsely highlighted in research. This interdisciplinary research-based synthesis has the aim to document and analyse the literature about children's encounters with animals as a ground work for research and practice. The background to the study is an ongoing urbanization and densification changing the conditions for children's everyday-contacts with their local flora and fauna. The result is an overview of research across four different domains: 1) Children´s contacts with animals in everyday life 2) Children's encounters with zoo-animals 3) Children's encounters with animals in a life-cycle perspective and 4) Animal-assisted activities for children. The material shows that there are many benefits associated with children's encounters with more or less wild and domestic animals, encounters that are important for their play, learning, and development in a life cycle perspective. On the other hand, this international literature also points out potential problems in children´s relation to wild fauna raising issues of fear, risks and conservation. The authors propose a perspective for community planning where children’s needs of having relationships with animals in their daily life is taken into account, without forgetting animal welfare and other implications of this practice for a sustainable development at large.
... Green spaces are good settings for outdoor learning, as interaction with nature can lead to increased connectedness to nature and ecological literacy [35]. One of the best green education models that target these age group early are the "outdoors-in-all-weather nursery schools" and "forest kindergartens" that as a way of teaching children of all ages about the natural world. ...
Article
Based on many empircal studies, nature play a cruical role in improving every aspect of children´s development-from the physical to the social, cognitive and even emotional. Unfortunately, today's children are much less connected to the natural world. They spend in average 90% of their time indoors in artificial built environments away from nature; the natural connection has been replaced with more virtual technological interactions and less unstructured outdoor play. The negative outcomes for children of this disconnection include very high rates of childhood obesity, social disorder and increased psychological stress. This paper investigates a biophilic architectural approach that focuses on creating an interconnection between life, nature and the built environment to enriches children's daily lives in educational spaces. The research method consists of a wide range of literature review to explore the concept of nature connection, biophilia, biophilic design principles, and their impact on creating educational spaces for children. The findings took the form of biophilic toolbox that could help in promoting physical and mental performance of children in educational spaces.
... Evidence shows that formative experiences of nature are important for an interdependent selfidentity, which includes other people and nature, sometimes called the ecological self, 52,53 or meta personal, 54 and linked to self transcendence (ie, identifying beyond a highly individuated ego). 55,56 These formative experiences include time spent in nature and engaging in activities in which a person can have a mindful sense of nature con nectedness (eg, watching, hearing, photographing, or painting plants and wildlife). ...
Article
Full-text available
A safe and just operating space for socioecological systems is a powerful bridging concept in sustainability science. It integrates biophysical earth-system tipping points (ie, thresholds at which small changes can lead to amplifying effects) with social science considerations of distributional equity and justice. Often neglected, however, are the multiple feedback loops between self-identity and planetary boundaries. Environmental degradation can reduce self-identification with nature, leading to decreased pro-environmental behaviours and decreased cooperation with out-groups, further increasing the likelihood of transgressing planetary boundaries. This vicious cycle competes with a virtuous one, where improving environmental quality enhances the integration of nature into self-identity and improves health, thereby facilitating prosocial and pro-environmental behaviour. These behavioural changes can also cascade up to influence social and economic institutions. Given a possible minimum degree of individual self-care to maintain health and prosperity, there would seem to exist an analogous safe and just operating space for self-identity, for which system stewardship for planetary health is crucial.
... Also, some researchers claim that scouting is arguably the only activity that promotes environmental concerns explicitly. Scouting involvement was often ranked as a primary source of environmental commitment in adulthood (Chawla, 1999;Kim et al., 2016), although this result has not always been consistently reported (Wells & Lekies, 2006). Finally, no study to our knowledge has ever examined volunteering (in nonenvironmental groups) and school committee participation in relationship to PEBs. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: Organized activities practiced in adolescence are known to foster positive development, including active citizenship. Active citizenship encompasses a wide range of behaviors, one of them being pro-environmental behaviors. Few studies focused on the developmental factors that may predict these behaviors in adults, despite their crucial role in counteracting the current climate crisis. However, prior research showed that attitudes were typically major predictors of behaviors. This study thus tested a model that posited participation in organized activities in adolescence as a predictor of pro-environmental attitudes in emerging adulthood and these attitudes as a predictor of pro-environmental behaviors in adulthood. Methods: Three hundred twenty-one participants (61% girls) from Quebec (Canada) completed all time points across a 17-year period. Participants self-reported their participation in organized activities (sports, cultural, prosocial) from ages 14 to 17, pro-environmental attitudes, from ages 18 to 22, and pro-environmental behaviors, at age 30. Results: Results revealed that pro-environmental attitudes mediate the relationship between adolescent participation in cultural activities and pro-environmental behaviors in adulthood. Practicing sporting or prosocial activities in adolescence did not predict stronger pro-environmental attitudes or behaviors. Interestingly, pro-environmental attitudes consistently predicted pro-environmental behaviors later in life. Conclusions: These findings and prior research suggest that participation in cultural activities may provide a space to discuss, imagine change, and cultivate sensitivity towards nature. This may contribute to the development of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors later in life.
... Thus, nurseries for young children play a key role in shaping values, attitudes, skills, and behaviour. This formative experience in turn supports the achievement of social and environmental sustainability goals, such as interculturality, equity, compensation for social and health inequalities, and the use of natural resources (Davis & Gibson, 2006;Wells & Lekies, 2006). Institutional services for early childhood education and care are characterised by diversity, which includes the need for flexible practices ready for transformation that reflect the needs and interests of children and families. ...
Book
Full-text available
The role of culture in language education has been long recognised and acknowledged. Languages and cultures are intertwined, and when learning a new language, one will come into contact with the related culture(s). The language learner, whose learning experience is complete with discovering, processing, understanding and accepting the other culture(s), will be able to proceed further into understanding the new language and hopefully develop a culturally aware personality. Intercultural competencies help one better understand the new cultures and one’s own culture. Taking a step back and looking at one’s own cultural background from a distance can help relate to ‘otherness’ in a more accepting way. Recently there has been a stronger emphasis on the role of learning about culture in early childhood language development. Language educators working with young children in nurseries, kindergarten and lower primary classes integrate elements of culture and cultural awareness-raising in their classroom work and syllabuses. The studies published in this volume are arranged around three main themes. First, the role of cultures in teacher education is investigated. In the next section, the studies explore various perspectives of cultures and languages in the pre-school context. The final section examines the role of literature in linguistic and intercultural dimensions.
Article
Full-text available
The article provides insight into development processes related to professional education in Latvian textile art. Special attention was made to the textile artist Rūdolfs Heimrāts and his crucial role in the history of Latvian textile art. He was permanently leading the Textile art department at the State Academy of Arts of Latvian SSR for more than thirty years. Heimrāts established his original educational model based on a deep understanding of Latvian textile culture heritage. The new generation of artists educated by Heimrāts completely changed visual content and technical capabilities of textile artwork. It raised the Latvian textile art to an unprecedented level of artistic expression. Heimrāts’s unique personality, creative interests, and set goals influenced Latvian textile art development for several decades. Textile artists who had acquired education under the leadership of Rūdolfs Heimrāts created their special contribution to Latvian textile art known as Heimrāts’s School. One of the unifying features of Heimrāts’s School became the predominance of landscape theme in artists’ oeuvre. The article aims to analyse the phenomenon of Heimrāts’s personality, his educational method, and his contribution to the development of Latvian textile art. Special attention was paid to determine the circumstances that affected the topic selection of weavings. Research methods include the study of archival material and publications, formal analysis of the artwork, biographical analysis, interviews, historical research, and field notes.
Article
The voices of young adults (15−24) ring faintly in the conversation around nature-based solutions (NBS), an absence that results in a lack of both procedural and distributive justice in the provision of such solutions. NBS clearly shape young adults — including their connections with nature, engagement in pro-environmental behaviours, and social and psychological health — but the dramatic reshaping of urban areas via rapid growth, densification, and technological innovation means today’s young adults have fewer opportunities to benefit from NBS. In a potentially vicious cycle, this shortfall can result in a weakened sense of connection with nature, leading to less time spent in natural environments and fewer sustainable behaviours. Achieving justice for young adults requires understanding their preferences, clarifying relationships between NBS characteristics and use, and translating research into evidence-based design. This paper fills these gaps by summarising interdisciplinary knowledge regarding the impacts of contact with nature on the development and well-being of young adults; describing case studies conducted in formal parks located in Australia’s largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne to clarify connections between our existing knowledge and the real-world provision of NBS; and applying these findings to develop an appraisal framework comprising three primary attributes — order, diversity, and seclusion and retreat — that supports the design and integration of urban greenspaces that uniquely benefit young adults’ social development and mental health. Finally, we explore the framework’s implementation, demonstrating its utility and flexibility for urban planners, municipal policymakers, and natural-resource managers seeking to advance intergenerational equity.
Chapter
The Educational Polygon for Self-Sufficiency in Dole (In Slovene, the expression polygon refers to an area intended for learning or training. In this case, the visitors learn about self-sufficiency and see it in practice. The full name of the place in Slovene is Educational Polygon for Self-Sufficiency in Dole “Učni poligon za samooskrbo Dole”; we shortly refer it as “Polygon Dole.”) has been established as an outdoor learning environment in the municipality of Poljčane, 40 km south of Maribor. In 2010, we began implementing outdoor education, so we needed an open learning environment where both young people and adults could gain experience in integrated self-sufficiency. Integrated self-sufficiency includes ecosystem food production, water collection and reuse, circular bio-waste management, renewable energy sources, wild insect care, and sustainable construction. Polygon Dole demonstrates the advantages of this type of education, which results in increased interest in self-sufficiency; greater awareness of natural laws; care for natural resources like energy, water, and biodiversity; and for personal development. Common goals include personal growth and building a community integrated with place consciousness and environmental goals. Outdoor environments are extremely important for young people who do not yet have life experience, to distinguish theoretical knowledge from practical knowledge and to connect the importance of multiple knowledge types for life. In this chapter, we provide insight into the activities that young people perform to strengthen thinking, develop manual skills, delve into ecosystem laws, and understand life on Earth. The emphasis is on holistic self-sufficiency, both material and spiritual, which develops a person into a vital, mentally connected, and responsible citizen, which is a great need in today’s society.KeywordsPolygon DoleHolistic self-sufficiencyOutdoor education environment
Article
Full-text available
Dunlap and Van Liere's New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) Scale, published in 1978, has become a widely used measure of proenvironmental orientation. This article develops a revised NEP Scale designed to improve upon the original one in several respects: ( 1 ) It taps a wider range of facets of an ecological worldview, ( 2 ) It offers a balanced set of pro- and anti-NEP items, and ( 3 ) It avoids outmoded terminology. The new scale, termed the New Ecological Paradigm Scale, consists of 15 items. Results of a 1990 Washington State survey suggest that the items can be treated as an internally consistent summated rating scale and also indicate a modest growth in pro-NEP responses among Washington residents over the 14 years since the original study.
Article
This study reports the instructional effects of a formal environmental education methodology, issue investigation and action training (IIAT) on middle school students. Can issue investigation and action training improve responsible environmental behavior of middle school students? Can variables identified as critical contributors to responsible adult environmental behavior be enhanced in middle school students as a function of issue investigation and action training? If middle school students demonstrate increased environmental behavior as a result of issue investigation and action training, will there be a parallel increase in those variables contributing to responsible environmental behavior? These questions are the focus of the discussion that follows.
Article
The main focus of environmental education programs has been to change environmental behavior through increasing environmental knowledge. As many environmental studies have failed to apply successfully attitude theory in researching environmental attitudes, the present study investigated the cognitive and effective bases of environmental attitudes to indicate that it is what people feel and believe about the environment that determines their attitudes toward it. The findings suggest that for environmental educators interested in changing environmental attitudes, emotions and beliefs, rather than knowledge, need to be targeted as sources of information on which to base their environmental programs.