Can nature help children to be kind? Evidence from Australia
Green space quality was associated with the development of prosocial behaviour from childhood to adolescence. Boys, those speaking only English at home, in more affluent or remote areas benefited more by the presence of quality green space in the neighbourhood.
Introduction: This study aimed to investigate associations between green space quality and child prosocial behaviour.
Methods: 4,969 children biannually followed-up (2004-2014) in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were analysed. Prosocial behaviour was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Parental perception on the availability of neighbourhood parks, playgrounds and play spaces was used to measure green space quality. Latent class analysis was used to partition children into groups denoting different levels of green space quality accumulated over 10 years. Multilevel linear regression tested association between green space quality and prosocial behaviour, adjusting for confounders.
Results: Six trajectory classes of green space quality across childhood were identified. Compared to children with consistently low quality green space, higher levels of prosocial behaviour were observed among those with very good quality green space (β=0.35). Higher levels of prosocial behaviour were also observed among children whose exposure to quality green space trended from good to very good (β=0.23) and from very good to good (β=0.31) across childhood, compared to those with low quality green space. Associations were generally stronger among boys, those speaking only English at home, in more affluent or remote areas.
Discussion: Ensuring access to quality green space across childhood may have a positive influence on the development of prosocial behaviour.