The role of public and private natural space in children's social, emotional and behavioural development in Scotland: a longitudinal study

Richardson, E. A., Pearce, J., Shortt, N. K. and Mitchell, R. (2017) The role of public and private natural space in children's social, emotional and behavioural development in Scotland: a longitudinal study. Environmental Research, 158, pp. 729-736. (doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.07.038) (PMID:28750342) (PMCID:PMC5571194)

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Introduction: Poor mental health in childhood has implications for health and wellbeing in later life. Natural space may benefit children's social, emotional and behavioural development. We investigated whether neighbourhood natural space and private garden access were related to children's developmental change over time. We asked whether relationships differed between boys and girls, or by household educational status. Methods: We analysed longitudinal data for 2909 urban-dwelling children (aged 4 at 2008/9 baseline) from the Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) survey. The survey provided social, emotional and behavioural difficulty scores (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)), and private garden access. Area (%) of total natural space and parks within 500 m of the child's home was quantified using Scotland's Greenspace Map. Interactions for park area, total natural space area, and private garden access with age and age2 were modelled to quantify their independent contributions to SDQ score change over time. Results: Private garden access was strongly related to most SDQ domains, while neighbourhood natural space was related to better social outcomes. We found little evidence that neighbourhood natural space or garden access influenced the trajectory of developmental change between 4 and 6 years, suggesting that any beneficial influences had occurred at younger ages. Stratified models showed the importance of parks for boys, and private gardens for the early development of children from low-education households. Conclusion: We conclude that neighbourhood natural space may reduce social, emotional and behavioural difficulties for 4–6 year olds, although private garden access may be most beneficial.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The work was supported by the European Research Council [ERC-2010-StG Grant 263501].
Keywords:Behavioural development, children, emotional development, nature, social development, strengths and difficulties questionnaire.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Rich
Authors: Richardson, E. A., Pearce, J., Shortt, N. K., and Mitchell, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Environmental Research
ISSN (Online):1096-0953
Published Online:01 August 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Environmental Research 158:729-736
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
590681PhyBEHI: Physical built environments and health inequalitiesRichard MitchellEuropean Commission (EC)263501PhyBEHIFP7IHW - PUBLIC HEALTH
727621SPHSU Core Renewal: Neighbourhoods and Communities Research ProgrammeAnne EllawayMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/10IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU