The Influence of Nature on a Child’s Development: Connecting the Outcomes of Human Attachment and Place Attachment

Sarah Little, Victoria Derr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Amidst a growing social movement to connect children to nature, little is understood about how children actually attach to place or the role of nature in shaping place attachments. While place attachment is an undertheorized concept, human attachment is well understood. In the chapter, an exploration of human attachment provides clarity of the potential outcomes of place attachment.

Both forms of attachment focus on the strength of the attachment of an individual to an external entity, a caregiver, or a place in the physical environment. The secure base function of secure human attachment mirrors the home range function of place attachment. In both concepts, children venture away from the object of attachment only to return in times of stress. Secure human attachments also foster the development of an internal working model in which a child mentally organizes behavior to solicit a desired response. The strength of the model predicts the quality of future relationships. Currently no research links the development of an internal working model to place attachment. Secure human attachments also foster resilience in that children are better able to respond to and cope with stress. Secure place attachments are linked to the presence of nature, social bonding, and emotional and cognitive processes. This is consistent with emergent resilience research with children which suggests that nature can play an important role in fostering resilience. Nature thus may be a defining feature of place attachments that help build resilience.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on ChildhoodNature, Springer International Handbooks of Education
StatePublished - Mar 24 2018


  • place attachment
  • human attachment
  • resilience
  • internal working model
  • secure base
  • home range
  • childhood
  • nature


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

Cite this