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Children don't like nature as much as adults: study

(Xinhua)    10:30, August 02, 2019

CHICAGO, Aug. 1 -- Researchers at the University of Chicago (UChicago) found in a new study that children preferred urban environments much more than adult participants.

In the study posted on UChicago's website on Thursday, a team of UChicago psychologists surveyed 239 children aged four to 11, asking them to rank pictures of urban and natural environments.

They interviewed more than 90 children from Chicago and other parts of Illinois, more than 100 from other states and 11 from other English-speaking countries. They sought to have at least 20 children of each age group, and also analyzed a subset of their sample that excluded siblings.

The researchers used images that were equated in visual appeal, so as to account for aesthetic preferences unrelated to natural or urban environments

They found that those children preferred urban environments much more than the 167 adult participants. They also found that children's preferences were not related to the amount of time they spent outdoors in natural environments.

However, preferences for urban environments were significantly lower among older children, suggesting that an affinity for nature may develop gradually in life, rather than being inherent at a young age.

The researchers have not yet identified an obvious cause for why children's preferences counter those of adults. One theory is that the children are influenced by their parents, and that those influences may take time to manifest. That idea is bolstered by the researchers' data, which show that older children's preferences increasingly mirrored those of their parents.

The researchers hope to continue investigating whether there are other mechanisms at play, and if adults and children weigh environmental preferences to different degrees. They also hope to conduct similar research on the preferences of adolescents.

"Our study also found evidence for the cognitive benefits of nature exposure in kids, and it was entirely unrelated to preference," said UChicago doctoral student Kim Lewis Meidenbauer, lead author of the study. "This is important because it really suggests that kids don't need to like nature for it to be good for them."

The study has been published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

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