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Soc Sci Med. 2015 May;133:253-60. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.10.033. Epub 2014 Oct 19.

Development and validation of the attitudes toward outdoor play scales for children.

Author information

1
Institute for Health and Society, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA. Electronic address: kbeyer@mcw.edu.
2
Center for Urban Initiatives and Research, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Englemann Hall B50, Milwaukee, WI, USA.
3
Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA.
4
Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee, WI, USA.
5
Menomonee Valley Partners, Milwaukee, WI, USA.

Abstract

The natural world has long been associated with health and described as a therapeutic landscape, and a growing body of research demonstrates the benefits of interacting with nature for mental and physical health. However, concern is growing that children have lost connection to the natural world and spend less time outdoors, despite the known health benefits of doing so. It is likely that healthy behaviors related to engagement with nature are mediated by beliefs about the value and safety of play in nature. While the literature abounds with qualitative examinations of children's attitudes toward outdoor play, there exist few instruments to quantitatively measure these attitudes. Informed by health behavior change theories, we describe the development and validation of the Attitudes toward Outdoor Play (ATOP) scales. As part of a community-academic partnership project called More Than a Pretty Place, the development of the ATOP scales unfolded in stages: (1) item generation based on a comprehensive literature review and consensus among the project team, (2) interviews with environmental educators, (3) initial pilot testing, (4) scale refinement, (5) administration during 2012 and 2013 to a sample of school children ages 9-13 (n = 362) in Milwaukee, WI, USA, and (6) quantitative psychometric evaluation. Two distinct scales emerged: ATOP-benefits (alpha = 0.79) and ATOP-fears (alpha = 0.79). Validity analyses found that both scales correlated as expected with measures of engagement in outdoor play, parental support for outdoor play, and sedentary behaviors. The ATOP scales are reliable and valid instruments for measuring attitudes toward outdoor play that may mediate children's outdoor activity in natural settings. The ATOP scales could be useful for evaluating the effects of programming, such as environmental education programming, on improving children's attitudes toward the benefits of nature and reducing their fears, and may predict more distal outcomes including engagement in outdoor activity.

KEYWORDS:

Attitudes; Children; Community engagement; Measurement; Nature; Outdoor play; United States

PMID:
25459206
PMCID:
PMC4571455
DOI:
10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.10.033
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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