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Exploring and Measuring Nature Connection in Early Childhood

Orman, Meghan (2024) Exploring and Measuring Nature Connection in Early Childhood. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Humanity’s future depends on raising generations of children who feel connected to and value the natural environment and can translate that connection into sustainable attitudes and behaviors (Myers & Frumkin, 2020; Rosa et al., 2018). The cultivation of nature connection starts in early childhood when children begin to form environmental attitudes and behaviors that will last a lifetime (Green et al., 2016). Yet researchers’ understanding of early nature connection is challenged by the absence of a unified framework that incorporates children’s perspectives and limited measures for assessing nature connection in early childhood. In the present dissertation, I conducted two studies to explore and measure nature connection in Icelandic preschool children (N=117). Iceland was chosen because of its emphasis on nature and sustainability in the national preschool curriculum. In Study 1, I explored the cognitive, affective, valuative, sociocultural, and biosystem features of early nature connection through drawings and interviews with 21 Icelandic preschool children. I found that young children have working theories of nature and expressed varying environmental values rooted in their microsystem contexts and shaped by sociocultural factors related to people, place, and activities. In Study 2, I created the Early Nature Connection Scale, a self-report scale of early nature connection for children aged 4-6 years. I tested its psychometric properties with 117 Icelandic preschool children and found it was reliable (α=.76), and evidence supported its content and construct validity. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a two-factor structure explaining 90% of the variance. The two factors were described as “yummy nature connection” and “meh or yucky nature connection.” The findings of this dissertation provide an avenue for future research to explore how young children form relationships with nature, the impact of sustainability education on early nature connection, and the relationship between early nature connection and child and environmental well-being.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Orman, Meghanmco29@pitt.edumco290000-0002-9802-9260
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWanless, Shannonswanless@pitt.edu0000-0003-1766-6418
Committee MemberAkiva, Tomtomakiva@pitt.edu0000-0003-1872-0316
Committee MemberQuigley, Cassiecquigley@pitt.edu0000-0002-9502-3736
Committee MemberBirgisdóttir, Freyjafreyja.birgisdottir@mms.is0000-0002-4657-1664
Committee MemberNorðdahl, Kristínknord@hi.is0000-0003-1916-8359
Date: 16 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 February 2024
Approval Date: 16 May 2024
Submission Date: 30 March 2024
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 143
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Psychology in Education
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: nature connection, early childhood, environmental psychology, biophilia, psychometrics
Date Deposited: 16 May 2024 18:18
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 18:18


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