Understanding changes to children's connection to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for child well-being

Samantha Friedman*, Susan Imrie, Elian Fink, Mina Gedikoglu, Claire H. Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


1. While psychological connection to nature is known to be associated with both
pro-environmental behaviours and well-being, there is an urgent need to extend
this research to consider impacts from the COVID-19 lockdown period. Examining
whether children's connection to nature changed during this period, identifying
the drivers of these changes and determining the links between connection to
nature and child well-being can each serve to guide post-lockdown initiatives to
promote children's connection to nature.
2. Three findings emerged from this UK sample of 376 families with young children.
First, nearly two thirds of parents reported a change (most typically, an increase)
in their child's connection to nature. Explanations for this increase included having
more time, increased enjoyment of nature and increased awareness or interest in
nature. Second, a third of children whose connection to nature decreased during the pandemic displayed increased problems of well-being—manifest as either
‘acting out’ (externalising problems) or sadness/anxiety (internalising problems).
Third, an increase in connection to nature during the pandemic was more evident
for children from affluent families than for their less affluent peers.
3. While connecting to nature may be an effective means of addressing child problems of well-being, the divergent findings for children from different family backgrounds indicate that efforts to enhance connection to nature should focus on the barriers experienced by children from less affluent families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-165
Number of pages11
JournalPeople and Nature
Issue number1
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


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