The Role of Interaction with Nature in Childhood Development: An Under-Appreciated Ecosystem Service
Psychology and Behavioral Sciences
Volume 8, Issue 6, December 2019, Pages: 142-150
Received: Sep. 3, 2019; Accepted: Oct. 5, 2019; Published: Nov. 5, 2019
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James Kevin Summers, Gulf Ecology Division/National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, The United States
Deborah Nicole Vivian, Gulf Ecology Division/National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, The United States
James Tobias Summers, Newhart Middle School, Mission Viejo, The United States; Crosby Middle School, Louisville, The United States
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Humans depend on the vital services provided by natural ecosystems. Regrettably, some individuals believe these ecosystem services are free; and therefore, have no value. An under-appreciated service provided by ecosystems is strengthening childhood development through interaction with nature to enhance childhood cognitive and physical development. The development of a child’s physical and cognitive abilities is complex with studies indicating multiple determinants and varied time scales. Childhood development is the product of many natural, social and built environmental attributes. While the impacts of social and built environments on childhood development are clearly described in the scientific literature, the role of natural environment is less clear. Even though people do not pay for this ecosystem service in a conventional sense, the loss of this service can result in a significant cost to humans through slower cognitive and physical development in children. Deprivation of these exposures to natural ecosystems can diminish a child’s development and eventually their underlying quality of life. While the impact of nature on childhood development is understood by most child developmental psychologists, this impact is under-appreciated by non-social scientists studying the contributions of ecosystem services in society. The complicated and symbiotic interactions of natural ecosystems, their services and childhood development are poorly acknowledged in the ecological literature. In this article, the important role of natural ecosystems and their services in childhood cognitive and physical development are examined through an examination of studies assessing this childhood development-ecosystem service connection.
Child Development, Ecosystem Services, Cognition, Nature
To cite this article
James Kevin Summers, Deborah Nicole Vivian, James Tobias Summers, The Role of Interaction with Nature in Childhood Development: An Under-Appreciated Ecosystem Service, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. Vol. 8, No. 6, 2019, pp. 142-150. doi: 10.11648/j.pbs.20190806.11
Copyright © 2019 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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