Researchers conducted phone interviews with 2000 adults in the US urban areas about their childhood nature experiences and current environmental attitudes and behavior. Interview questions, for example, addressed “wild” nature experience in childhood (hiking, camping and hunting) and “domesticated” nature experiences (picking flowers, caring for plants and planting trees). Structural equation modeling was used to test relationships between variables. Researchers conclude that “while involvement with “wild” and “domesticated” natural environments both play a role, participation with “wild” nature before age 11 is a particularly potent pathway toward shaping both environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood. When children become truly engaged with the natural world at a young age, the experience is likely to stay with them in a powerful way – shaping their subsequent environmental path.”

SOURCE: Wells, N. M., & Lekies, K. S. (2006). Nature and the life course: pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, youth and environments, 16(1), 1-24.