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      The Potential Correlation Between Nature Engagement in Middle Childhood Years and College Undergraduates’ Nature Engagement, Proenvironmental Attitudes, and Stress


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          Nature engagement (NE) provides myriad psychological and physiological benefits, many of which begin in childhood and continue into adulthood. Research suggests children who have positive experiences with nature are more likely to continue engaging with nature and have more proenvironmental attitudes (PEAs) as adults. Among the benefits of NE are reduced stress, improved sleep, and improved cognitive performance, all essential criteria for healthy undergraduate life. College students in particular, because of high levels of stress, may benefit from NE, and the frequency and type of their engagement may be impacted by childhood experience.


          This study aimed to better understand the potential correlation between university undergraduates’ past NE in their middle childhood years (MCYs) and current NE; past NE and undergraduate PEA; and undergraduate NE and stress levels. We chose to examine the middle childhood and undergraduate years because little research has been conducted on the relationship of NE between these two age groups.


          We used a survey of undergraduate students ( n = 309) enrolled at a US university to explore the frequency and types of NE during MCYs, their family and neighborhood demographics, and current levels of NE, PEA, and stress in their undergraduate lives.


          Although results indicated a large decrease in NE from middle childhood to undergraduate years for most participants, we found a significant positive correlation between NE during MCYs and undergraduate NE. We found a positive correlation between MCYs NE and undergraduate PEA as well as undergraduate NE and undergraduate PEA. Contrary to other studies and to our hypothesis, we did not find a correlation between undergraduate NE and reduced stress levels.


          This study looked specifically at US undergraduate students to compare their current engagement with and attitudes toward nature and the environment with their nature experiences during their formative MCYs. Our results suggest that it is important for people to have positive experiences with nature in childhood, both for continued NE and to inculcate PEAs in adulthood. These results can help in formulating approaches to improving student well-being at institutions of higher learning.

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            The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework

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              Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments


                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                29 October 2020
                : 11
                : 540872
                [1] 1Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland , College Park, MD, United States
                [2] 2Section of Horticulture, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca , NY, United States
                [3] 3Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University, Ithaca , NY, United States
                [4] 4Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs , CO, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Giuseppina Spano, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy

                Reviewed by: Simon Bell, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom; José Gutiérrez-Pérez, University of Granada, Spain

                *Correspondence: Naomi A. Sachs, nsachs@ 123456umd.edu

                This article was submitted to Environmental Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2020 Sachs, Rakow, Shepley and Peditto.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 06 March 2020
                : 05 October 2020
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 63, Pages: 14, Words: 0
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                middle childhood,college students,university students,nature engagement,mental health,stress,environmental stewardship,pro-environment attitudes


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