The natural environment and children’s emotional self-regulation

child playing in leaves

Exposure to nature and enhanced emotional self-regulation has been studied in depth in adults, but what about the impact on children?

Studies have linked urban living and city upbringing to increased levels of mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, characterized by problems with emotional self-regulation. Conversely, exposure to nature has been shown to restore cognitive and attentional control, assist with stress-regulation, and improve an individual’s ability to manage life’s challenges. However, these studies have primarily focused on adults. Very little is known about the effects of nature on emotional self-regulation in children.

child touching a treeBecause childhood is such a formative—and potentially vulnerable—period, it is important to study environmental influences on children’s ability to regulate their emotions. Positive correlations between childhood exposure to natural stimulii and enhanced emotional self-regulation could have a beneficial influence on behaviors later in life, such as pro-environmentalism and increased physical activity. Thus, this project has the potential to generate the research evidence needed to provide a strong rationale for promoting more sustainable practices.

This project is supported under a UVA Sustainability Research Development Grant awarded January 2018.

children playing in waterFor more information, contact Jennifer Roe ( or Tobias Grossmann (