An Exploration of Children’s Connection to Nature: Aotearoa New Zealand
“People protect what they love” - Jacques Cousteau It’s unavoidable that the next generation will be faced with resolving our current and future environmental issues. It is suggested that children must first care about the environment before they are asked to save it, however, a more indoor childhood is forming a disconnect between child and the natural world. Rooted in the theory that a connection to nature (i.e. our affective and experiential relationship with the natural world) influences a willingness to protect it, this thesis aims to unearth the relationships between connection to nature and environmental attitudes and behaviours of children in Aotearoa New Zealand. To do so this study will: 1) Explore the underlying dimensions of children’s connection to nature, 2) Identify the factors that are related to children’s connection with nature, 3) Investigate the variables that best predict children’s willingness to act for the environment, 4) Investigate the variables that best predict children’s household pro-environmental behaviour. Findings from a quantitative questionnaire suggest that a child’s (n = 450) connection to nature is related to a plethora of variables; most notably exhibiting a strong relationship with their willingness to act for the environment. Furthermore, children’s experiences in nature best predict their household’s pro-environmental behaviour. These findings contribute to past research which suggest that positive relationships with nature, partially formed from time spent in nature, relate to pro-environmental attitudes. This study addresses gaps in Aotearoa New Zealand in regards to children’s connection to nature. It will benefit local policy makers and educators who are dedicated to strengthening the child and nature bond and/or conserving Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment.