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An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults' Childhood and Current Nature Exposure and Their Mental Well-Being

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This study explores the relationships between adults' childhood nature exposure (NE), current NE, and mental well-being. Correlational data from two countries (Australia and Germany) found positive relationships between both childhood and current NE and numerous mental well-being indicators. However, the contribution of childhood NE was indirect, through its relationship to current NE. The German study also assessed ecological behavior and connectedness to nature, and although childhood NE maintained a marginal relation to both these variables, current NE was also precedent in these domains. The relationships between NE and mental well-being and ecological behavior were both mediated by connectedness to nature. Thus, for the mental well-being of humans and protection of the earth, nature exposure should be encouraged and maintained later in life.
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2016 Children, Youth and Environments
Children, Youth and Environments 26(1), 2016
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’
Childhood and Current Nature Exposure and Their
Mental Well-Being
Pamela Pensini
Friedrich-Schiller University
Eva Horn
Nerina J. Caltabiano
James Cook University
Citation: Pensini, Pamela, Eva Horn, and Nerina J. Caltabiano (2016). “An
Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature
Exposure and Their Mental Well-Being.” Children, Youth and Environments 26(1):
125-147. Retrieved [date] from:
http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublication?journalCode=chilyoutenvi.
Abstract
This study explores the relationships between adults’ childhood nature exposure
(NE), current NE, and mental well-being. Correlational data from two countries
(Australia and Germany) found positive relationships between both childhood and
current NE and numerous mental well-being indicators. However, the contribution
of childhood NE was indirect, through its relationship to current NE. The German
study also assessed ecological behavior and connectedness to nature, and
although childhood NE maintained a marginal relation to both these variables,
current NE was also precedent in these domains. The relationships between NE
and mental well-being and ecological behavior were both mediated by
connectedness to nature. Thus, for the mental well-being of humans and protection
of the earth, nature exposure should be encouraged and maintained later in life.
Keywords: nature exposure, mental well-being, nature, connectedness to nature,
ecological behavior
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 126
Ecopsychologists and environmentalists attest that nature exposure is important for
the psychological and physical health of humans (e.g., Kahn & Kellert, 2002; Kaplan
& Kaplan, 1989; Metzner, 1999), and there is substantial scientific evidence that
confirms these contentions for both adults (e.g., Berman et al., 2012; Chang,
Hammitt, Chen, Machnik, & Su, 2008; Hartig, Evans, Jamner, Davis, & Gärling,
2003; Raanaas, Evensen, Rich, Sjøstrøm, & Patil, 2011; Roe & Aspinall, 2011;
Velarde, Fry, & Tveit, 2007; Warber, Bialko, Dehudy, & Irvine, 2012) and children
(e.g., Faber Taylor, Kuo, & Sullivan, 2001; Pyle, 2002; Wells, 2000). It is also widely
accepted that nature exposure during childhood is especially profound and influential
(Wells & Evans, 2003); some authors (e.g., Kellert, 1996; Stegner, 1962) have gone
so far to assert the importance of childhood nature exposure for successful
functioning in adulthood. This said, however, the lasting relation between childhood
nature exposure and the mental well-being of young adults remains, so far, poorly
examined.
The effects of nature exposure in adult populations include a host of positive effects.
For example, increased psychological well-being (e.g., Annerstedt & Währborg,
2011; Kaplan, 1973), improved cognitive functioning (e.g., Berman et al., 2012;
Hartig et al., 2003; Kuo, 2001; Tennessen & Cimprich, 1995), faster recovery from
illness (e.g., Ulrich, 1984), increased social functioning (e.g., Annerstedt &
Währborg, 2011), as well as increased ecological attitudes and behaviors (e.g.,
Scannell & Gifford, 2010; Vorkinn & Riese, 2001) are all related to nature exposure.
Similarly, in child populations nature exposure has been found to increase
concentration and self-discipline (e.g., Faber Taylor et al., 2001; Wells, 2000), to
improve cognitive development in domains including awareness, reasoning, and
observational skills (e.g., Pyle, 2002), as well as to increase ecological attitudes and
behaviors (e.g., Scannell & Gifford, 2010; Vorkinn & Riese, 2001); see Chawla
(2015) for a review.
While research thus far has not fully investigated the long-term influence of
childhood nature exposure on mental well-being, research within the domain of
environmentalism at least suggests that childhood nature exposure indeed has
lasting impacts. In their investigation of the lasting impact of children’s exposure to
nature using a life-course approach, Wells and Lekies (2006) concluded that nature
exposure indeed contributed to ecological attitudes and behaviors in adulthood. This
is in accordance with other research investigating the lasting effects of childhood
nature exposure on environmentalism-relevant variables (e.g., Bixler et al., 2002;
Chipeniuk, 1995; Ewert, Place, & Sibthorp, 2005); most of this research, however,
was conducted with adolescent populations.
The Structural-Developmental perspective similarly suggests that childhood nature
exposure should have an impact on individual functioning later in life. Structural-
development theory (Damon, 1977; DeVries & Zan, 1994; Kohlberg, 1969; Piaget,
1983; Turiel, 1998), also known as constructivist, social cognitive, or structural-
interactional theory, explains that children construct conceptual understanding and
values as a result of interaction with their specific (physical and social)
environments. Over time these constructs develop and transform into more
comprehensive and suitable ways of understanding the world. As a result, nature
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 127
exposure during childhood could frame development in ways that may not be offered
in its absence. Kahn (2002) offers some support for this approach with respect to the
development of children’s affiliation with nature, and Kellert (1996) also offers some
contention regarding the lasting importance of childhood nature experiences.
Kellert (1996) attests that childhood nature exposure fosters the manner with which
individuals relate to and value nature and, thus, suggests childhood nature exposure
may ultimately impact mental well-being later in life. The typology that Kellert
(1996) develops includes nine basic values that reflect how people value nature in
emotional, intellectual, and material terms. The development of these values is at
least partly dependent upon nature exposure throughout life including, and
especially, during childhood (Kellert, 1996; see also Kahn, 1997). Among Kellert’s
(1996) typology of: utilitarian, naturalistic, ecologistic-scientific, aesthetic, symbolic,
dominionistic, humanistic, moralistic, and negativistic values, almost all may be
reasoned to encompass facets relevant to mental well-being. Because there is
evidence that these values develop during childhood (Kellert, 1996; see also Kahn,
1997), childhood nature exposure may indeed have lasting impacts on mental well-
being later in life. These values aside, given that adults’ exposure to nature is
documented to have a host of positive effects on their mental well-being,
investigations into the lasting impacts of childhood nature exposure on mental well-
being should thus also consider the effects of adults’ current nature exposure.
In two studies utilizing a retrospective, self-report measure, the current paper
investigates the relationships among adults’ exposure to nature in childhood, current
nature exposure, and their mental well-being. Such a methodology does not appear
to have been previously attempted. As there may be age-related deficiencies
affecting recall, these studies focus on a young adult population (ages 19-40, as per
Erikson’s (cited in McInerney & McInerney, 2002) psychosocial stages of
development).
Study 1
This study aimed to explore the relationship between adults’ exposure to nature in
childhood, their current nature exposure, and their mental well-being. It was
predicted that: (1) there would be positive relationships between both childhood and
current nature exposure and the measures of mental well-being; and (2) childhood
nature exposure would be a significant predictor of mental well-being later in life,
although this effect might be an indirect one, through its relationship to current
nature exposure.
Method
Participants and Procedure
The study consisted of 646 Australian participants aged 19 to 40 (M=30.13,
SD=6.30; 101 males, 545 females). Participants were asked to complete an online
questionnaire, and were recruited through a link to the survey shared on Facebook
groups around Australia, as well as via email by colleagues and friends of the
researchers. As an incentive for participation, through another link participants were
able to enter a draw for a cinema gift card valued at $50.
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 128
Materials
The questionnaire contained demographic questions of age and gender, the
Childhood and the Current Natural Environments Exposure Scales, and three mental
well-being scales: the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale, the Meaning in
Life Questionnaire, and the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being.
The Natural Environment Exposure Scales (NEES) were constructed for this research
and consisted of a list of 13 common natural environments in Australia. Participants
were asked to rate the frequency of time they spent in each of the various natural
environments presented. The Childhood NEES and Current NEES were identical
except for past and present tense wording. Childhood was defined as up to 18 years
of age. The items were rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (never/rarely),
which was described as once or twice a year, to 5 (often), described as more than
once a week. Scores were computed by summing each of the 13 items for Childhood
and Current. The NEES scale was found to be highly reliable using Cronbach’s alpha
(13 items; Childhood NEES α=.81; Current NEES α=.82).
The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMBS; Tennant et al., 2007) is a
14-item, single-factor scale that focuses on positive aspects of mental well-being,
and has been shown to be a valid and reliable measure of mental well-being (α=.94;
e.g., Clarke, et al., 2011; Lloyd & Devine, 2012; Maheswaran, Weich, Powell, &
Stewart-Brown, 2012; Taggart, Friede, Weich, Clark, Johnson, & Stewart-Brown,
2013; Tennant et al., 2007). Participants respond to statements such as “I’ve been
feeling optimistic about the future” using a Likert scale ranging from 1 (none of the
time) to 5 (all of the time).
Ryff’s (1989) Psychological Well-Being measure is a 53-item scale including six sub-
scales of Autonomy (α=.81), Environmental Mastery (α=.82), Personal Growth
(α=.81), Positive Relations with Others (α=.82), Purpose in Life (α=.82), and Self-
Acceptance (α=.88). Items are answered on a 6-point Likert scale from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Sample items include, for Autonomy: “I often
change my mind about decisions if my friends or family disagree” (reversed);
Environmental Mastery: “I often feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities”
(reversed); Personal Growth: “I think it is important to have new experiences that
challenge how you think about yourself and the world”; Positive Relations with
Others: “I have not experienced many warm and trusting relationships with others”
(reversed); Purpose in Life: “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am
not one of them”; and Self-Acceptance: “When I look at the story of my life, I am
pleased with how things have turned out.
The Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ; Steger, Frazier, Oishi, & Kaler, 2006)
measures how full of meaning participants feel their lives are and how determined
they are to find and understand meaning in their lives. The MLQ is a 10-item
measure that includes two sub-scales of five items each: Presence (of meaning in
life, α=.88), for example, “I understand my life’s meaning”; and Search (for meaning
in life, α=.89), for example, “I am seeking a purpose or mission for my life.” Items
are rated on a scale from 1 (absolutely untrue) to 7 (absolutely true).
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 129
Results
Descriptive Statistics
Table 1 compares measures of central tendency and dispersion for Childhood Nature
Exposure and Current Nature Exposure for each of the 13 natural environments on
the NEES. The item “In my or someone else’s garden” was the nature exposure most
often reported in both childhood and adulthood. “Looking at the stars” and “Watching
the clouds” were the next most frequently reported nature exposures. In addition to
the 13 natural environments provided on the questionnaire, some participants also
listed additional natural environments to which they were exposed in childhood or
currently. The most common of these included, in childhood, farmland (n=32),
alpine/snowy area (n=5), and sporting fields (n=2), and in adulthood, farmland
(n=10), and going for a drive in nature (n=2). These natural environments were
recoded, where possible, into the other categories before analysis.
Response differences by gender indicated that males (M=34.92, SD=7.01) scored
higher on Ryff’s Autonomy than did females (M=32.75, SD=7.67), F=5.20, p=.023.
All other comparisons between males and females were non-significant. Analyses
also suggest that the current age of participants is unrelated to their responses on
the measure of childhood nature exposure, r=-.01, p=.732.
Table 1. Natural environments ordered approximately by popularity
Natural Environment
Childhood Nature Exposure
Current Nature Exposure
M(SD)
Mode
M(SD)
In my or someone
else’s garden
3.15 (1.51)
5
3.48 (1.53)
Looking at the stars
3.08 (1.43)
2
3.20 (1.36)
Watching the clouds
2.94 (1.41)
2
3.25 (1.34)
At a park
2.73 (1.25)
2
3.04 (1.33)
In the bush
2.17 (1.35)
1
2.66 (1.49)
Other natural
environment
1.93 (1.38)
1
2.03 (1.49)
At the beach
1.85 (1.14)
1
2.15 (1.33)
On or in the ocean
1.69 (1.01)
1
2.16 (1.33)
At a river
1.84 (1.08)
1
2.09 (1.23)
At a lake
1.60 (.96)
1
1.76 (1.09)
In the mountains
1.58 (1.08)
1
1.76 (1.09)
In the rainforest
1.43 (.92)
1
1.52 (1.03)
Camping outdoors
1.35 (.72)
1
1.64 (.88)
Note: 1 (Never/Rarely) = once or twice a year; 2 (Sometimes) = once a month; 3
(Occasionally) = once a fortnight; 4 (Regularly) = once a week; 5 (Often) = more
than once a week. N=646
Hypothesis 1
Analysis found a significant positive correlation between childhood nature exposure
and current nature exposure: r=.56, p<.001. According to Cohen (2013), this effect
size can be considered large. To explore the relationships between childhood and
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 130
current nature exposure and mental well-being, researchers conducted a series of
correlations and partial correlations (see Table 2). In support of hypothesis 1, results
indicate that both childhood and current nature exposure were positively related to
the majority of the mental well-being indicators; however, when controlling for
current nature exposure the relationships between childhood nature exposure and
the mental well-being indicators largely became non-significant. These findings
suggest that, while exposure to nature in childhood is strongly related to an adult’s
current nature exposure, current nature exposure appears to be of primary
importance for adults’ mental well-being. According to Cohen (2013), the effect size
of the correlations reported in Table 2 could be considered small.
Table 2. Correlations and partial correlations between the mental
well-being measures and nature exposure
Measure
Childhood
Nature
Exposure
Current
Nature
Exposure
Childhood Nature
Exposure
(Controlling
Current Nature
Exposure)
Current Nature
Exposure (Controlling
Childhood Nature
Exposure)
r p
r p
r p
r p
WEMBS
.13 .002
.27 < .001
-.02 .340
.26 <.001
MLQ Presence
.07 .090
.22 < .001
-.06 .106
.21 <.001
MLQ Search
.15 .001
-.03 .435
.20 <.001
-.14 .001
Ryff total
.16 < .001
.29 < .001
.00 .497
.25 <.001
Autonomy
.16 < .001
.21 < .001
.05 .148
.15 .001
Environmental
Mastery
.03 .507
.20 < .001
-.10 .008
.23 <.001
Personal Growth
.22 < .001
.29 < .001
.07 .064
.21 <.001
Positive Relations
with Others
.18 < .001
.25 < .001
.05 .120
.19 <.001
Purpose in Life
.11 .012
.26 < .001
-.02 .338
.21 <.001
Self-Acceptance
.11 .011
.26 < .001
-.04 .197
.25 <.001
N=646
Hypothesis 2
The correlations and partial correlations provide some information regarding the
relationship between childhood and current nature exposure and the well-being
indicators. However, to more fully investigate the lasting effect of childhood nature
exposure on adults’ mental well-being indicators, given the strong positive
relationship between childhood and current nature exposure, tests of indirect effects
of childhood nature exposure (through participants’ current nature exposure) were
performed. According to Preacher and Hayes (2008), an absence of a direct
relationship between two variables does not necessarily indicate the absence of an
indirect effect. Thus, bootstrapped analyses (with a 95 percent confidence interval
(CI) and 1000 bootstrapped samples) were conducted to assess whether childhood
nature exposure impacts mental well-being through its relationship with adults’
current nature exposure. These results are presented in Table 3. Broadly supporting
hypothesis 2, results from these analyses suggest an interpretation where childhood
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 131
nature exposure predicts mental well-being via its positive relationship with current
nature exposure.
Table 3. Indirect effects of childhood nature exposure, via current nature
exposure, on the mental well-being indicators
Dependent measure
Unstandardized Regression Coefficients
Bootstrapped BC
95% CI
Path a
Path b
Path c
Path c’
WEMBS
.52***
.37***
.15**
-.04
.1055
.2731
MLQ Presence
.50***
.20***
.05
-.04
.0543
.1520
MLQ Search
.50***
-.14**
.11***
.18***
-.1177
-.0263
Ryff total
.51***
1.42***
.68***
-.04
.4379
1.0149
Autonomy
.51***
.16***
.13***
.05
.0312
.1333
Environmental Mastery
.51***
.26***
.03
-.11*
.0781
.1940
Personal Growth
.51***
.24***
.19***
.07
.0552
.1754
Positive relations with
others
.51***
.21***
.16***
.05
.0510
.1732
Purpose in life
.51***
.23***
.10*
-.02
.0511
.1746
Self-Acceptance
.51***
.33***
.11*
-.05
.0998
.2368
Note: Path a = Childhood Nature Exposure to Current Nature Exposure; Path b = Current
Nature Exposure to Dependent measure (when Childhood Nature Exposure was controlled);
Path c = Childhood Nature Exposure to Dependent measure; Path c’ = Childhood Nature
Exposure to Dependent measure (when Current Nature Exposure was controlled). N=646
p<.10, *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
Discussion
The results of this study suggest that nature exposure in childhood relates to mental
well-being later in life through the positive relation between childhood and adult
nature exposure. Support was found for the prediction that nature exposure relates
to better mental well-being of young adults; however, once removing the more
immediate effects of current nature exposure, the lasting effects of childhood nature
exposure per se were, for the most part, unable to be demonstrated. Generally,
these findings are in line with that of Bixler and colleagues (2002) suggesting that
exposure to nature during childhood may cultivate the necessary lifestyle
preferences and/or habits to foster nature exposure later in life. Thus, the
contribution of childhood nature exposure to mental well-being later in life appears
to be an indirect one, through its relationship with current nature exposure.
As the mechanism by which nature exposure may positively impact mental well-
being was not examined in this study, we undertook a second study aiming both to
investigate the extent of replicability of these results and to investigate the process
by which mental well-being may follow nature exposure. To further investigate the
effects of nature exposure, the second study also assessed ecological behavior.
Study 2
The aim of this study was to replicate the findings of Study 1 in a different sample
and to investigate the mechanisms by which nature exposure may influence mental
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 132
well-being. While cultural differences have been found in individuals’ values and
preferences toward natural environments (e.g., Kellert, 1996), it may be assumed,
for example from Wilson’s (1984) biophilia hypothesis, that nature exposure may be
similarly beneficial for individuals regardless of their differences in cultural values or
preferences toward nature. Study 2 thus aimed to replicate the findings of Study 1
conducted among Australiansin a sample that differs in terms of values towards
nature: Germany. While both highly developed countries, there is evidence that
Australians and Germans have differing views and values toward the natural
environment. Kellert (1996), for example, describes Germans as having romantic
and moralistic views towards the natural environment, while Dargavel (1995) and
Jeans and Spearritt (1980) describe Australians as largely holding instrumental
values toward nature. An additional difference between these countries is also the
accessibility of natural environments. Australia is sparsely populated (3.08 people
per square kilometer; ABS 2014) while Germany is much more densely populated
(225.72 people per square kilometer; DeStatis, 2015). This may render accessibility
to natural environments more or less challenging in each country.
Considering the mechanism by which nature exposure may increase mental well-
being, previous research (Mayer, Frantz, Bruehlman-Senecal, & Dolliver, 2009, Study
2) has found that feelings of connectedness to nature partially mediate the current
nature exposure well-being relationship. Connectedness to nature can be described
as the extent to which one feels connected to and part of the natural world (Mayer &
Frantz, 2004), and as the extent to which nature is included in an individual’s self-
concept (Schultz, 2002). Indeed, research suggests that connectedness to nature
can be increased by exposure to natural environments. For example, Mayer and
colleagues (2009, Study 2) found that connectedness to nature can be increased
with as little as taking a 15-minute walk in a natural setting, or even watching videos
of natural settings. Important for the current work, connectedness to nature has
been found to have positive impacts on the individual as it correlates with personal
well-being (e.g., Hinds & Sparks, 2008; Mayer & Frantz, 2004; Mayer et al., 2009;
Nisbet, Zelenski, & Murphy, 2011).
Cheng and Munroe (2012) found that connection to nature in children was
significantly positively correlated with previous nature experience, how their family
values nature, having nature close to their home, and their level of knowledge about
the environment. Indeed, there is general support for the notion that contact with
the natural environment, particularly during childhood, is associated with stronger
connections to nature, both during childhood and later in life (e.g., Bruni & Schultz,
2010; Duffy & Verges, 2010; Howell, Dopko, Passmore, & Buro, 2011; Kals,
Schumacher, & Montada, 1999; Mayer et al., 2009; Nisbet et al., 2009, 2011;
Schultz & Tabanico, 2007). However, while it is broadly accepted that experiences in
nature may increase connectedness (e.g., Mayer et al., 2009, Study 2), as well as
overall well-being (see Russell et al., 2013 for a review), once again, what is not
known is to what extent these effects may be lasting products of childhood nature
exposure. Thus, predictions were based on the literature and the findings of Study 1
and it was hypothesized that: (1) there would be positive relationships between
childhood and current nature exposure and participants’ mental well-being
indicators; (2) childhood nature exposure would be an indirect predictor of mental
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 133
well-being later in life, through its positive relationship with current nature exposure;
and (3) connectedness to nature would mediate the relationship between nature
exposure and the mental well-being indicators.
To further assess the effects of nature exposure, ecological behavior was included as
an additional dependent variable in this study. Based on the reasoning that nature
exposure increases connectedness to nature, such connectedness enables nature to
be considered as part of an expanded sense of self (e.g., Macy & Johnstone, 2012;
Naess, 1988; Schultz, 2002) and, therefore, causing harm to nature parallels causing
harm to the self. Thus, in line with previous work that has found positive
relationships between nature exposure and ecological behavior (e.g., Scannell &
Gifford, 2010; Vorkinn & Riese, 2001), as well as connectedness to nature and
ecological behavior (e.g., Mayer & Frantz, 2004; Nisbet et al., 2009; Schultz &
Tabanico, 2007), it was hypothesized (4) that connectedness to nature would
similarly mediate the positive relationship between nature exposure and ecological
behavior.
Method
Participants and Procedure
Participants were 141 students from a mid-sized university in central Germany, aged
between 19 and 40 years (M=22.43, SD=3.28; 49 males, 91 females). Participants
completed a pen-and-paper version of the survey used in Study 1, with the
additional measures described below, in an area of the campus foyer dedicated to
the study. Participation was reimbursed with course credit or a chocolate bar.
Materials
The survey contained the same measures as Study 1, with the addition of two
measures of connectedness to nature and a measure of ecological behaviors, as
described below, and was translated into German. The Natural Environment
Exposure Scales were slightly altered from Study 1 to reflect the differing availability
of natural environments in Germany. Items remained identical, except for bush
and rainforest which were substituted with fields and meadows and forest. The
NEES scale was found to be reliable using Cronbach’s alpha (13 items; Childhood
NEES α=.77; Current NEES α=.74).
The measures of connectedness to nature were Mayer and Frantz’s (2004)
Connectedness to Nature Scale, and Schultz’s (2002) Inclusion of Nature in Self. The
Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS; Mayer & Frantz, 2004) is a 14-item measure
of the extent to which individuals experience a connection with nature. Participants
responded to statements such as “I often feel a sense of oneness with the natural
world around me” on a Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)
(α=.81).
Schultz’s (2002) Inclusion of Nature in Self (INS) is an assessment of the extent to
which individuals report a merging of self with nature. It is a single-item measure
that consists of seven pairs of overlapping circles, one labelled self and the other
nature. Each pair of circles overlaps to different degrees, representing different
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 134
levels of connection with nature. Participants select the pair of circles that best
represents their interconnectedness with nature, with higher scores indicating
greater inclusion of nature in the self.
The measure of ecological behavior consists of 18 items covering a range of
domains, including support for environmental organizations, reducing consumption,
recycling, reusing items, political awareness, and conservation (Pensini, Slugoski, &
Caltabiano, 2012). Participants responded to statements such as “My purchasing
decisions are influenced by whether the packaging is recyclable” and “I consider the
environmental policies of candidates when voting on a scale from 1 (never) to 4
(always). Previous use of these items demonstrated a single factor solution and high
internal consistency (α=.87; Pensini et al., 2012). These items also demonstrated a
single-factor solution and high internal consistency (α=.81) in the current study.
Results
Descriptive Statistics
Table 4 compares the measures of central tendency and dispersion for the Childhood
Nature Exposure Scale and the Current Nature Exposure Scale for each of the 13
natural environments. As with Study 1, the item “In my or someone else’s garden”
was the item most often reported during childhood, while “Looking at the stars” was
the most common current nature exposure. Once again, participants listed numerous
other natural environments from those presented; the most common childhood
additions included farmland (n=2), field paths for jogging/cycling (n=2), and
sporting fields (n=2), and the additions to adult environments included field paths
for jogging/cycling (n=5), sporting fields (n=3), and farmland (n=2). These were
recoded, where possible, into the other categories before analysis.
Response differences by gender indicated, as with Study 1, that males (M=35.18,
SD=6.65) scored significantly higher on Ryff’s Autonomy than did females (M=32.84,
SD=5.07), F=5.44, p=.021. Females (M=48.56, SD=7.41) scored significantly
higher on the Connectedness to Nature Scale than did males (M=44.78, SD=10.55),
F=6.08 p=.015. Females (M=3.92, SD=1.41) also scored marginally higher on the
Inclusion of Nature in Self scale than did males (M=3.49, SD=1.35), F=3.12,
p=.080. Females (M=46.25, SD=7.36) also reported significantly higher ecological
behavior than did males (M=42.74, SD=7.84), F=6.90, p=.010. Finally, analyses
suggest that the age of participants was not related to their recollection of childhood
nature exposure, r=-.05, p=.596.
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 135
Table 4. Natural environments ordered approximately by popularity
Natural Environment
Childhood Nature Exposure
Current Nature Exposure
M(SD)
Mode
M(SD)
Mode
In my or someone
else’s garden
4.24 (1.16)
5
2.71 (1.37)
1
In fields and
meadows
3.73 (1.31)
5
2.72 (1.25)
2
In the forest
3.41 (1.20)
4
2.35 (1.16)
2
At a river
2.70 (1.31)
4
2.40 (1.10)
2
Watching the clouds
3.19 (1.29)
3
2.80 (1.39)
2
Looking at the stars
2.90 (1.36)
2
2.96 (1.36)
2
At a park
2.75 (1.36)
2
2.84 (1.20)
2
At a lake
2.43 (1.14)
2
1.81 (0.87)
1
Other natural
environment
2.13 (1.65)
1
2.33 (1.52)
1
In the mountains
1.47 (0.87)
1
1.58 (1.03)
1
On or in the ocean
1.35 (0.77)
1
1.16 (0.40)
1
Camping outdoors
1.38 (0.80)
1
1.16 (0.42)
1
At the beach
1.34 (0.92)
1
1.12 (0.47)
1
Note: 1 (Never/Rarely) = once or twice a year; 2 (Sometimes) = once a month; 3
(Occasionally) = once a fortnight; 4 (Regularly) = once a week; 5 (Often) = more than
once a week. N=141
Hypothesis 1
Childhood nature exposure and current nature exposure were once again correlated,
r=.46, p<.001.
To investigate the predictions that nature exposure, both childhood and current,
would be positively related to the mental well-being measures, ecological behaviors,
and the proposed connectedness to nature mediators, researchers performed
Pearson correlations and partial correlations (see Table 5). Contrary to hypothesis 1,
adults’ childhood and current nature exposure failed to relate to the majority of the
mental well-being indicators; however, current nature exposure showed more
significant findings. According to Cohen (2013), the effect size of these correlations
could be considered small. Regarding connectedness to nature and ecological
behavior, moderate positive relationships were demonstrated with both childhood
and current nature exposure, and childhood nature exposure maintained marginally
significant relationships with the INS and ecological behavior after controlling for
current nature exposure.
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 136
Table 5. Correlations and partial correlations between the dependent
measures and nature exposure
Measure
Childhood
Nature
Exposure
Current
Nature
Exposure
Childhood Nature
Exposure
(Controlling Current
Nature Exposure)
Current Nature
Exposure
(Controlling
Childhood
Nature
Exposure)
r p
r p
r p
r p
WEMWBS
-.07 .200
.15 .035
-.17 .023
.21 .012
MLQ Presence
-.03 .303
.17 .023
-.13 .070
.14 .102
MLQ Search
.15 .035
.05 .274
.17 .021
-.01 .881
Ryff total
-.02 .414
.12 .073
-.10 .122
.15 .085
Autonomy
.03 .356
.07 .203
-.14 .053
.12 .178
Environmental
Mastery
-.07 .201
.09 .146
-.18 .016
.16 .062
Personal Growth
.06 .258
.15 .038
.02 .393
.12 .163
Positive Relations
with Others
.03 .366
.07 .220
.01 .470
.05 .534
Purpose in Life
.04 .303
.01 .463
-.06 .240
.02 .799
Self-Acceptance
.10 .114
.19 .012
-.10 .107
.21 .012
Connectedness to
Nature
.24 .003
.42 < .001
.04 .394
.35 < .001
Inclusion of
Nature in Self
.28 < .001
.38 < .001
.12 .077
.29 .001
Ecological
Behavior
.28 < .001
.41< .001
.13 .069
.32 < .001
Note: N=141
Hypothesis 2
Considering that adults’ childhood nature exposure may influence mental well-being
through its relationship to their current nature exposure, bootstrapped mediation
analyses were conducted, again using the bootstrapping procedure suggested by
Preacher and Hayes (2008), a 95 percent confidence interval (CI) and 1000
bootstrapped samples. See Table 6 for a summary of these results. In partial support
of hypothesis 2, an indirect effect of childhood nature exposure on mental well-being
via current nature exposure was found for the mental well-being indicators of
WEMBS, Ryff’s Self Acceptance, and Environmental Mastery. There was also a
significant indirect effect of childhood nature exposure via current nature exposure
on both connectedness to nature indicators (CNS and INS) and ecological behavior.
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 137
Table 6. Indirect effects of childhood nature exposure, via current nature
exposure, on the dependent measures
Dependent Measure
Unstandardized Regression Coefficients
Bootstrapped BC
95% CI
Path a
Path b
Path c
Path c’
WEMBS
.46***
.31*
-.10
-.24
.0375
.2802
MLQ Presence
.27**
.40*
-.09
-.20
.0134
.2831
MLQ Search
.46***
-.03
.17
.17
-.0974
.0689
Ryff total
.47***
.82
-.13
-.51
-.0547
.9009
Autonomy
.47***
.11
-.06
-.11
-.0100
.1343
Environmental Mastery
.27***
.63*
-.14
-.30
.0471
.4143
Personal Growth
.46***
.12
.08
.02
-.0215
.1528
Positive relations with
others
.46***
.07
.04
.01
-.0864
.1484
Purpose in life
.46***
.03
-.04
-.06
-.0864
.1312
Self-Acceptance
.46***
.29
-.01
-.14
.0432
.2609
Ecological Behavior
.46***
.36***
.31***
.14
.0754
.2826
Connectedness to
nature
.46***
.46***
.29**
.08
.1172
.3352
Inclusion of nature in
self
.46***
.06***
.05***
.03
.0079
.0499
Notes: Path a = Childhood Nature Exposure to Current Nature Exposure; Path b = Current
Nature Exposure to Dependent measure (when Childhood Nature Exposure was controlled);
Path c = Childhood Nature Exposure to Dependent measure; Path c’ = Childhood Nature
Exposure to Dependent measure (when Current Nature Exposure was controlled). N=141
p<.10, *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001.
Hypotheses 3 and 4
To test the model that nature exposure (both childhood and current) predict
ecological behavior and mental well-being, through increased connectedness to
nature, mediation analyses were performed. The two measures of connectedness to
nature, the CNS and INS, were, according to Cohen (2013), strongly positively
correlated, r=.63, p<.001. Firstly, as an initial test of predictions, partial correlations
were performed for CNS and INS and the independent and dependent variables.
When controlling for current nature exposure, neither measure of connectedness to
nature was significantly related to childhood nature exposure (see right column of
Table 5); however, current nature exposure (when controlling childhood nature
exposure) was related to both measures of connectedness (CNS r=.38, p<.001, INS
r=.28, p<.001). To conduct the mediation analyses, the procedures suggested by
Preacher and Hayes (2008), a confidence interval of 95 percent and bias-corrected
bootstrapping using 1000 bootstrapped samples, were used in all analyses. In
addition, as childhood nature exposure and current nature exposure were correlated,
the alternative nature exposure was entered as a covariate in all analyses. See Table
7.
For current nature exposure, and the Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS) as the
mediator, the indirect effect was significant (i.e., not containing zero) for Ecological
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 138
Behavior (a BC 95 percent CI of .06 to .23), and the following measures of well-
being: WEMBS (a BC 95 percent CI of .08 to .38), MLQ Presence (a BC 95 percent CI
of .05 to .16), and Ryff’s Self-Acceptance (a BC 95 percent CI of .02 to .12). In
partial support of hypothesis 3, and in support of hypothesis 4, this suggests that
current nature exposure predicts ecological behavior as well as these mental well-
being indicators, and that this relationship was mediated by the increased
connectedness to nature related to current nature exposure.
For childhood nature exposure, however, none of the indirect effects were significant
(i.e., all contained zero; BC 95 percent CIs ranging between -.06 and .12). This
suggests that childhood nature exposure does not, beyond current nature exposure,
predict mental well-being or ecological behavior through connectedness to nature.
Table 7. Mediation analyses: Current nature exposure+
Outcomes
Unstandardized Regression Coefficients
Bootstrapping
BC 95% CI
Path a
Path b
Path c
Path c’
Ecological Behavior
.43***
.30***
.33***
.20*
(.0595, .2304)
WEMWBS
.42***
.44***
.30*
.12
(.0761, .3847)
MLQ Presence
.43***
.23***
.15*
.05
(.0539, .1613)
MLQ Search
.43***
-.11
-.03
.02
(-.1308, .0033)
Ryff total
.43***
-.03
.11
.12
(-.1803, .1283)
Autonomy
.43***
.00
-.04
-.03
(-.0385, .0416)
Environmental Mastery
.43***
-.01
.07
.08
(-.0427, .0268)
Personal Growth
.43***
-.05
-.10
-.08
(-.0821, .0203)
Positive Relations with Others
.43***
-.08
.04
.08
(-.0939, .0050)
Purpose in Life
.43***
-.03
.04
.04
(-.0650, .0195)
Self-Acceptance
.43***
.14**
.10
.04
(.0230, .1178)
Note. +Controlling for Childhood Nature Exposure. Path a = Current Nature Exposure to
Connectedness to Nature; Path b = Connectedness to Nature to Outcome (when Current
Nature Exposure was controlled), Path c = Current Nature Exposure to Outcome. Path c’ =
Current Nature Exposure to Outcome (when Connectedness to Nature was controlled).
p<.10, *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001. N=141.
Similar mediation analyses were conducted with the Inclusion of Nature in Self (INS)
measure as the mediator. For current nature exposure (when controlling for
childhood nature exposure), considering the mental well-being measures, none of
the indirect effects were significant (i.e., all contained zero; BC 95 percent CIs
ranging between -.19 and .16). Offering support for hypothesis 4, the relationship
between nature exposure and ecological behavior was mediated by INS (a BC 95
percent CI of .03 to .22). Once again, for childhood nature exposure (when
controlling for current nature exposure), none of the indirect effects were significant
(BC 95 percent CIs ranged from -.13 to .13).
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 139
Discussion
While nature exposure generally demonstrated weaker relationships with the mental
well-being indicators than did Study 1, the results of Study 2 similarly demonstrated
the primacy of adults’ current nature exposure over their childhood nature exposure
in its association with their mental well-being. Beyond its relationship with current
nature exposure, childhood nature exposure, however, appeared largely unrelated to
mental well-being. For ecological behavior and connectedness to nature, on the other
hand, there appears to be a lasting, albeit marginal, relationship to childhood nature
exposure beyond what is accounted for by current nature exposure.
Regarding the relationship between childhood and current nature exposure, findings
similar to those in Study 2 were also found in Study 1. Adults’ childhood nature
exposure correlated strongly with their current nature exposure, again suggesting
that adults’ current preferences for exposure to nature may be influenced by those
they experienced during childhood.
Despite the correlational nature of the data, the positive relationships between
current nature exposure and mental well-being suggest that humansregardless of
values, preferences and general availability of natural environmentsderive positive
benefits from nature exposure. Although the relationships were somewhat weaker in
Study 2 than in Study 1, something for which the smaller sample size may account,
there was at least some evidence found for a positive relation between nature
exposure and mental well-being. This study also found evidence for the mechanism
by which current nature exposure may increase mental well-being and ecological
behaviors: by increasing connectedness to nature. Indeed, the relationship between
adults’ current nature exposure and some of their mental well-being indicators and
ecological behavior was mediated by connectedness to nature. In previous work
(e.g., Mayer et al., 2009, Study 2), exposure to nature has been documented to
increase both connectedness to nature and well-being; despite the marginally
significant relationship between childhood nature exposure and connectedness to
nature, evidence from this study suggests that the vast majority of increases in
adults’ sense of connectedness to nature are associated with their current, not
childhood, nature exposure. Thus, while findings suggest, in line with Kahn (1997),
that childhood nature exposure is important for the development of a connection to
nature, connectedness to nature may also be somewhat fluid and dependent on the
extent of current nature exposure. In combination, the results of this study suggest
the importance of current nature exposure for mental well-being, ecological
behavior, and connectedness to nature.
Main Discussion
Through two studies, this paper broadly supports the notion that nature exposure
relates to increased mental well-being. While adults’ current exposure to nature was
directly associated with their mental well-being indicators, connectedness to nature,
and ecological behaviors, an indirect effect for childhood nature exposure provides
evidence for the importance of nature exposure during childhood. Further, the
substantial positive relationship between childhood nature exposure and current
nature exposure suggests that childhood nature exposure may cultivate the
necessary lifestyle preferences and habits that foster nature exposure later in life.
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 140
Results from these studies also suggest that young adults may benefit from their
current nature exposure regardless of the quantity of their childhood nature
exposure.
The indirect effect of childhood nature exposure on mental well-being later in life
supports the structural developmental perspective (Damon, 1977; DeVries & Zan,
1994; Kohlberg, 1969; Piaget, 1983; Turiel, 1998) that nature exposure in childhood
may contribute to individual preferences for nature exposure later in life, and to the
development of an individual’s values and relationship toward nature (see Kellert,
1996). However, regardless of cultural differences that may exist in how nature is
valued (see Kellert, 1996), childhood and current nature exposure remain strongly
linked, and increased mental well-being is associated with the increased
connectedness to nature associated with current nature exposure. The apparent
importance of current nature exposure over childhood nature exposure suggests that
the beneficial effects of exposure to nature on mental well-being may be obtained
relatively immediately and, thus, may be somewhat fleeting. When considering
ecological behavior and connectedness to nature, in addition to previous research
(e.g., Chipeniuk, 1995, Bixler et al., 2002; Ewert et al., 2005, Wells & Lekies, 2006),
evidence was found for a remaining, although slight, relationship between childhood
nature exposure and these variables. Thus, exposure to nature in childhood may
foster connection to nature as well as ecological behavior later in life. Given the
general positive effects of connectedness to nature, future research regarding
childhood nature exposure and connectedness to nature later in life seems
warranted.
While evidence was found for the mediating role of connectedness to nature between
nature exposure and mental well-being, we would like to attest that the entirety of
nature’s beneficial effects are unlikely due to a single reason. For example, Lowry et
al. (2007) found evidence that certain microbes in soil had learning enhancement
and anxiety-diminishing effects, pointing at other avenues through which nature
exposure may influence mental well-being. Indeed, a recent review paper suggested
that enhanced immune functioning may account for a host of the positive effects of
nature exposure on human health (Kuo, 2015). Continued research in this domain is
clearly warranted.
Limitations
These studies are not without limitations. Exercise and social interaction often
accompany exposure to natural environments and could be possible confounds in the
results presented. Speaking against this, however, there is evidence that contact
with nature, physical activity, and social interaction each have individual influences
on mental well-being (e.g., Field, Townsend, Maller, & Pryor, 2006; Ryan et al.,
2010). Further, as the current studies report correlational data, claims of causality
cannot be made. In fact, the reverse relation may also be argued: that mental well-
being increases nature exposure. Other work, however, provides more direct
evidence for nature exposure’s positive effect on mental well-being (see Annerstedt
& Wahrborg, 2011). Despite sound internal reliabilities, it must be acknowledged that
the nature exposure measure is lacking further reliability and validity information;
this should be kept in mind when interpreting the results. The accuracy of the
An Exploration of the Relationships between Adults’ Childhood and Current Nature… 141
retrospective measure of childhood nature exposure, despite its lack of correlation
with age, presents an additional limitation. While significantly more costly, a
longitudinal research design would diminish the need for retrospective measures that
rely on memory. These studies also suffer from the shortcoming in their definition of
childhood, which ranges from birth until 18 years of age. As this time span
encompasses many developmental aspects, some formative impacts of nature
exposure may not be sufficiently captured. In addition, due to its reliance on
retrospective memory, the sampled populations included solely young adults; thus,
broader conclusions to older aged populations cannot be assumed.
Conclusion
All in all, the current studies suggest that childhood nature exposure is related to
mental well-being later in life to the extent that it fosters adult nature exposure.
While correlational in design, this research suggests that adults’ current nature
exposure appears to offer a more paramount contribution to their mental well-being,
connectedness to nature, and ecological behavior. While childhood nature exposure
may, however, provide some formative experiences important for the development
of connectedness to nature and the performance of ecological behaviors, current
nature exposure was also more strongly associated to these domains. Thus, for the
well-being of both humans and the protection of the earth, nature exposure in
childhood should be encouraged, and therefore likely maintained later in life.
Pamela Pensini, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research candidate at the Friedrich Schiller
University in Jena, Germany. Her current research focusses on environmental
identity, and she also has interests in environmentally friendly behavior, and
intergroup emotions and cooperation.
Eva Horn has a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) from James Cook University in
Cairns, Australia. Her research interests include determinants of well-being and
educational psychology.
Nerina Caltabiano, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Psychology at James Cook
University in Cairns, Australia. Her research interests incorporate multidisciplinary
perspectives from health, development and educational psychology.
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... Previous research shows that the positive psychological effects of nature exposure depend on individual factors. Retrospective reports (Jimenez et al., 2021;Pensini et al., 2016;Wood & Smyth, 2020) suggest that nature exposure during childhood correlates with psychological benefits of nature. A systematic review (Li et al., 2021), comprising primarily longitudinal studies, supports an overall beneficial role of early nature exposure on later mental health. ...
... It is a trait-like feature which is relative stable over time (Mayer & Frantz, 2004), but short exposures to nature can produce short-term state-like fluctuations in it (Mayer et al., 2009). Connectedness to nature correlates positively with the frequency of time spent in nature and outdoors (Nisbet et al., 2009) and with the psychological well-being (Mayer et al., 2009;Pensini et al., 2016). The relation of nature connectedness to the immediate affective responses to nature remains unstudied. ...
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Do humans have a hard-wired tendency to respond with positive affects to nature or do individual's meanings and learning experiences moderate the affective responses to natural or urban scenes? We studied the relative contributions of inherited dispositions and individual factors (childhood and current nature exposure, nature connectedness) on immediate affective responses to nature and urban scenes with Affect Misattribution Procedure (AMP). In the AMP, the participants (N = 316) judged the valence of their affective responses to Chinese characters, which were preceded by nature or urban prime images. Individual factors (childhood and current nature exposure, nature connectedness, gender, age) did not predict immediate affective responses to nature, but childhood nature exposure moderated reported affects following urban images. The results suggest that humans may have an inherited hard-wired tendency to respond with positive affects to nature, whereas the affective responses to urban scenes are more influenced by individual factors.
... Humans have different levels of connectedness to nature [21,37]. Findings of recent studies suggested that nature connectedness mediate the associations between nature exposure and well-being [47,48]. Evidence exists that nature connectedness impacts how individuals respond to natural environments. ...
... Further, the present study contributes empirical evidence that connectedness to nature is a mediator between nature exposure and QoL. Our findings extend the prior theory and research, and are in accordance with the previous studies that demonstrated state connectedness to nature was a mediator in the association between nature exposure and well-being [47,48,73]. The novel finding of the present study is that nature exposure relates to higher general QoL, both directly and through connectedness to nature. ...
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This study aimed to test the mediating effects of nature restorativeness, stress, and nature connectedness in the association between nature exposure and quality of life (QoL). Urban and rural Lithuanian inhabitants (n = 924; 73.6% were women), mean age of 40.0 ± 12.4 years (age range of 18–79) participated in the study. In total, 31% of the respondents lived in rural areas. Study participants completed an online survey form with measures on sociodemographic factors, nature proximity, nature exposure, nature connectedness, and nature restorativeness, stress, and QoL assessed by the abbreviated version of the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life Questionnaire’s (WHOQOL-BREF). Path analysis was conducted to test the mediating effects of nature restorativeness, stress, and nature connectedness in the model of nature exposure and QoL. Nature exposure was directly associated with a greater QoL (β = 0.14; B = 2.60; SE = 0.57; p < 0.001) and mediated the association between nature proximity and QoL. Nature restorativeness and lower stress levels were mediators between nature exposure and QoL. Nature connectedness was a mediator between nature exposure and QoL. A path model was invariant across genders and the urban and rural place of residence groups: patterns of loadings of the pathways were found to be similar. Nature restorativeness (β = 0.10–0.12; p < 0.01) had a positive effect on the psychological, physical, social, and environmental domains of QoL. Connectedness to nature positively predicted psychological (β = 0.079; p < 0.05) and environmental (β = 0.082; p < 0.05) domains of QoL. Enhancing nature exposure and nature connectedness might help strengthen QoL in urban and rural inhabitants.
... Strong relationships with nature are rooted in childhood nature experiences (Kahn & Kellert, 2002). However, the time spent in nature during both childhood and adulthood is assumed to strengthen nature connectedness (Cleary et al., 2018;Lin et al., 2014;Pensini et al., 2016;Rosa et al., 2018). Furthermore, there is a notion that qualitative aspects of nature play a major role in the enhancement of connection with nature. ...
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Nature connectedness is recognized for its potential to promote pro-environmental behavior and well-being. While urban green spaces are the main form of direct contact with nature for many people, it is largely unclear which types of natural settings and qualities in urban areas most effectively strengthen human relationships with nature. Wilderness is increasingly acknowledged as contributing to higher biodiversity in urban areas and has long received attention from the arts and sciences for its range of well-being benefits. The present study investigates the effects of walking in two different natural settings on people's nature connectedness and well-being. Eighty-four participants were randomly assigned to a walk in an urban forest or a landscape park, which represent different degrees of human impact on the landscape. Both settings increased positive affect, decreased negative affect, and restored attention capacity. Against our expectation, participants walking in the urban forest did not show higher levels of nature connectedness or well-being compared to those in the landscape park. Furthermore, the urban forest was not perceived as wilder than the landscape park. The degree to which people perceived the environments as wild was positively associated with nature connectedness. The findings further suggest that perceived wildness may increase positive affect through nature connectedness. The experience of connection with nature may be an important mechanism by which nature exposure enhances well-being. We conclude that individual perceptions of nature can influence the degree to which well-being benefits are gained in urban green spaces. Connection with nature, urban green spaces, well-being, attention restoration, wildness, biodiversity.
... For example, children who grew up having greater contact with nature reported stronger connectedness to nature in adulthood (Rosa et al., 2018). Frequently playing in nature as a child has been related to undertaking nature-based activities in adulthood (Asah et al., 2012;Hosaka et al., 2018;Pensini et al., 2016;Snell et al., 2016). Childhood participation in more remote natural environments (e.g., hiking in the woods) and more domesticated nature-related activities (e.g., picking fruits and vegetables) have been associated with stronger proenvironmental attitudes as an adult (Wells and Lekies, 2006). ...
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Nature deficit poses critical developmental challenges to the future generations. Louv, for example, stated that children needs adequate nature exposure for healthy development of their sense, learning, and creativity. However, it remains unknown whether individuals having various levels of nature access during childhood may develop different sensory processing patterns. The current study reports relationships between retrospective life course measure of childhood nature exposure and sensory profiles in young adulthood. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Shanghai, China, with 700 Chinese young adults (18–25 years old) who grew up in diverse geographies across the country. Sensory Profile was measured using the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile (AASP) with four quadrants; creativity using the Alternative Uses Task (AUT), and nature-relatedness using the Nature-Relatedness (NR) scale. Perceived childhood nature exposure was calculated as a cumulative score from up to three childhood home locations, weighted by duration of residency. Ordinary least square (OLS) and structural equation models (SEM) were fitted to examine the direct and indirect relationships. After adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics, low childhood nature exposure was associated with low sensory registration. Regarding the relationship between childhood nature exposure and adulthood creativity and nature-relatedness, significant direct paths and indirect paths through low sensory registration were observed. Results suggested that children who had lower levels of nature exposure grew up to exhibit a high tendency to miss subtle sensory stimuli, and this sensory processing pattern in turn is associated with lower levels of affinity to nature and creativity. Notwithstanding the preliminary nature of these findings, this study offers implications for designing child-friendly urban space that facilitates sensory explorations and allows children to acquire the ability to recognize various sensory inputs.
... The stronger the connectedness to nature, the more likely the individual will be spending time in nature and acquiring positive experiences and associations to nature. The positive effects that exposure to nature has on a person's psychological wellbeing are, at least partially, mediated by connectedness to nature (Mayer et al., 2009;Pensini et al., 2016). Thus, the relationship between nature exposure and connectedness seems to be bidirectional: exposure to nature increases connectedness to nature and connectedness to nature creates cognitive structures (i.e., constructs) through which nature is interpreted in a positive way. ...
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Exposure to natural environments has positive psychological effects. These effects have been explained from an evolutionary perspective, emphasizing humans’ innate preference for natural stimuli. We tested whether top-down cognitive processes influence the psychophysiological effects of environments. The source of an ambiguous sound was attributed to either nature (waterfall) or industry (factory). The results suggested that the participants’ subjective experiences were more pleasant and relaxed when the sound was attributed to nature than to industry. The influence of source attribution was also reflected in physiological measures that were free of subjective biases. The power of the brain’s lower alpha band activity was stronger in the nature scenario than in the industry condition. The individuals’ nature connectedness moderated the influence of source attribution on theta band power and electrodermal activity. The results support an evolutionary-constructivist perspective which assumes that the individual’s meanings and associations modulate the innate bottom-up effects of nature exposure.
... Further research is needed to examine these variables experimentally, longitudinally, or from a developmental perspective. For example, constructs that are known to affect connection to nature, such as nature exposure [48], could be considered. Future research may also be useful in replicating these findings using other measures of connection, including connection to a broader human domain such as "all of humanity" [13]. ...
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Although both altruistic and ecological behaviors can be considered prosocially driven behaviors, our psychological understanding of what motivates action in either the human or ecological domains is still in its infancy. We aimed to assess connection to nature and connection to humans as mediators of the relationship between prosocial propensity and prosocial behaviors in both the ecological and human domains. This study used empathy as an indicator of an individual’s prosocial propensity. The data for the study was collected through surveys in Russian (841 participants) and Spanish (418 participants). The study demonstrated that an individual’s prosocial propensity can be actioned into ecological (nature-related) behavior through connection to nature. Similarly, an individual’s prosocial propensity can be actioned into altruistic (human-related) behavior through connection to humans. However, the present study also demonstrates that an individual’s prosocial propensity can be directed to humans through a connection to nature. Thus, altruistic and ecological behaviors are two related classes of behavior, driven by the same prosocial propensity of the individual. This study is an important step towards generating scientific support for the claim that traditionally separate teaching of prosocial and environmental subjects should be combined into a single educational approach. An integrated approach will contribute to a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary effort to create a society that is both ecologically and socially sustainable.
... Building on this idea, van den Born et al. (2018) posited that active environmentalists had strong connections with nature as well as motivations to act on nature's behalf and support healthy and meaningful human-nature relationships. These findings parallel a body of work suggesting that connectedness to nature (i.e., a subjective sense of one's relationship with nature) and psychological well-being are positively correlated (Mayer & Frantz, 2004;Nisbet et al., 2011;Pensini et al., 2016;Pritchard et al., 2019). Therefore, eudaimonic values may encourage the formation of a strong relationship with nature, which in turn, energizes environmentalism. ...
... Building on this idea, van den Born et al. (2018) posited that active environmentalists had strong connections with nature as well as motivations to act on nature's behalf and support healthy and meaningful human-nature relationships. These findings parallel a body of work suggesting that connectedness to nature (i.e., a subjective sense of one's relationship with nature) and psychological well-being are positively correlated (Mayer & Frantz, 2004;Nisbet et al., 2011;Pensini et al., 2016;Pritchard et al., 2019). Therefore, eudaimonic values may encourage the formation of a strong relationship with nature, which in turn, energizes environmentalism. ...
Preprint
Understanding the transactions that occur between humans and their environments requires research focused on phenomena that explain behavioral patterns, particularly values that serve as guiding principles in life. Mounting evidence has suggested that pro-environmental behavior is motivated by the long-term goal of living a meaningful life, as reflected by Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia. However, the relationships among value concepts, particularly eudaimonic values, remains unclear despite the fundamental role that these constructs play in explaining why people make behavioral decisions. We conceptualized eudaimonic values with guidance from Self-Determination Theory to understand how a suite of values affected pro-environmental behavior reported by recreational anglers (n = 1,103) across five US states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Indiana) in the Great Lakes region. Results from a latent variable path model showed that eudaimonic values were strong predictors of biospheric, altruistic, egoistic, and hedonic values, which in turn, influenced self-reported behavior among recreational anglers who were at risk of spreading aquatic invasive species. These findings suggest that eudaimonic values are an antecedent to values-behavior relationships and can improve the predictive capacity of models being developed to inform management strategies for minimizing human activities that are contributing to the unintentional spread of aquatic invasive species.
... Recent evidence suggests that during lockdowns, individuals had time to explore local greenspaces in their communities as wider travel was restricted ( Rousseau & Deschacht, 2020 ). This is important as time in nature is related to increased connectedness to nature ( Coughlan et al., 2022 ;Nisbet et al., 2019 ;Pensini et al., 2016 ), and one of the mechanisms by which anthropomorphism influences pro-environmental outcomes is through enhanced connectedness to nature ( Tam et al., 2013b ). Therefore, future research should investigate the role of nature exposure and awareness of nature-related topics as mechanisms by which anthropomorphism of nature influences pro-environmental support in the context of the pandemic. ...
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Anthropomorphism of nature is known to be related to pro-environmental outcomes; however, little is known about these variables in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The economic impact of the prolonged lockdowns may disrupt the historical relationship between these variables, as financial insecurity may compete with environmental concerns for consideration. This study examined the relationship between anthropomorphism of nature the context of COVID-19, and pro-environmental support, and the potential moderating role of financial insecurity in this relationship. It was hypothesised that anthropomorphism of nature in the context of COVID-19 would have a lesser effect on pro-environmental support for individuals who experienced financial insecurity during the pandemic. Participants (N=615; Mage=48.71, SDage=17.50; 70% female) completed self-report measures of anthropomorphism of nature, anthropomorphism of nature in the context of COVID-19, financial insecurity, and a measure of support for pro-environmental policies in the economic recovery from COVID-19. Results demonstrated that, after controlling for general anthropomorphism of nature, anthropomorphism of nature in the context of COVID-19 predicted pro-environmental support (R² = .05, F(4, 610) = 8.36, p < .001). However, contrary to expectation, pro-environmental support was higher in those experiencing financial insecurity compared to those who were financially secure (B = -2.65, BootSE= .93, p = .004, 95% BootCI [-4.47, -.83]). Financial insecurity also did not moderate the relationship between anthropomorphism of nature in the COVID-19 context and pro-environmental support. Furthermore, the general tendency to anthropomorphise nature was not a significant predictor of support for pro-environmental policies. These findings have important implications for understandings of anthropomorphism, financial insecurity, and environmental protection as well as for public policy on economic recovery in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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How might contact with nature promote human health? Myriad studies have linked the two; at this time the task of identifying the mechanisms underlying this link is paramount. This article offers: (1) a compilation of plausible pathways between nature and health; (2) criteria for identifying a possible central pathway; and (3) one promising candidate for a central pathway. The 21 pathways identified here include environmental factors, physiological and psychological states, and behaviors or conditions, each of which has been empirically tied to nature and has implications for specific physical and mental health outcomes. While each is likely to contribute to nature's impacts on health to some degree and under some circumstances, this paper explores the possibility of a central pathway by proposing criteria for identifying such a pathway and illustrating their use. A particular pathway is more likely to be central if it can account for the size of nature's impacts on health, account for nature's specific health outcomes, and subsume other pathways. By these criteria, enhanced immune functioning emerges as one promising candidate for a central pathway between nature and health. There may be others.
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Communication scientists routinely ask questions about causal relationships. Whether it is examining the persuasive impact of public service announcements on attitudes and behavior, determining the impact of viewing political debates on political knowledge or voter turnout, or assessing whether success in achieving one's Internet browsing goals prompts greater interest in e-commerce, communication scholars frequently conduct research to answer questions about cause. Data analysis usually focuses on examining if the putative causal variable, whether manipulated or measured, is related to the outcome using a linear model such as analysis of variance or linear regression. In many arenas of research, such analyses, when accompanied by good research design, are sufficient to answer the question as to whether variation in X causes variation in Y. But deeper understanding accrues when researchers investigate the process by which a given effect is produced. Although it might be interesting and even important to discover, for mechanisms ...
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This review examines different ways that contact with nature can contribute to the health and well-being of children. Applying the capabilities approach to human development for a broad definition of well-being, it traces research from the 1970s to the present, following shifting research approaches that investigate different dimensions of health. A compelling body of evidence exists that trees and natural areas are essential elements of healthy communities for children. They need to be integrated at multiple scales, from landscaping around homes, schools, and childcare centers, to linked systems of urban trails, greenways, parks, and “rough ground” for children’s creative play.