Childhood Physical Activity and Nature Experience as Predictors of Adult Perspectives on Nature

Student Author(s)

Kara Lurvey
Amanda Gibson

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown, Psychology

Document Type


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Previous research has explored the benefits of connecting children with nature (Louv, 2005, Wells, 2006). A parallel discussion has emerged focusing on adults’ experience of “nature deficit disorder” due to lack of connection to nature (Louv, 2011). Prior research suggests a relationship between childhood experiences and adult preferences. Some studies have specifically compared adults’ nature exposure to their preference for being outdoors and physically active as children (Thompson et al., 2008, Henniger, 1994). Similarly, this study explores the relationship between retrospective childhood physical activity and nature experience and current adult perspectives on nature exposure. The study utilizes a self-report survey aimed at understanding college students’ perspectives and experiences. We hypothesized that those who were encouraged to and spent more time in nature as children would be more likely to value and spend time in nature as adults. Preliminary correlational analyses revealed a significant relationship between parental encouragement of free-time outdoor play and enjoyment of outdoor activities as children. Additionally, participants indicated they would be less restrictive with their own children with respect to activities that they, themselves, enjoyed in childhood. Those who considered nature an important part of learning enjoyed more outdoor and physically active activities as children. There was also a correlation between weekly hours spent outside as a child and hours per week spend outside as an adult. These preliminary findings underscore the importance of the childhood-nature connection and its implications for mitigating nature deficit disorder in adulthood. Further analyses explore which childhood nature experiences serve as predictors for current engagement with nature, physical activity level, and perceptions of nature’s importance and benefit for learning.

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