Research Summary

Demographic, social, and environmental factors predicting Danish children’s greenspace use

Access to multiple types of greenspace is a stronger predictor of greenspace use by children than parental support

Urban Forestry & Urban Greening

A number of factors influence the extent to which children use greenspace. Some such factors – such as age and gender – are nonmodifable. Others – such as accessibility and parental support – are modifiable. This study investigated to what extent demographic, social and environmental factors predict the frequency of greenspace use in Danish children. Both modifiable and nonmodifiable factors were considered. Three research questions framed the study: (1) How often do Danish children use greenspaces? (2) What demographic differences in greenspace use are present? (3) How do social and environmental factors predict greenspace use? For purpose of this study, greenspace was defined as publicly accessible areas with natural vegetation which included urban parks, beaches, forest, and nature reserves.

Researchers used data gathered from a national survey administered to parents of children (age 6-15) in Denmark. Survey items used for this study related to children’s frequency of greenspace use, children’s accessibility to greenspace, and parental barriers influencing children’s use of greenspace. Responses from 3171 parents were analyzed for this study.

Survey results showed that 49.5 % of the children used greenspace almost every day during the summer and over 90 % used greenspaces at least once a week. Almost all of the parents (98,7 %) indicated that their child had at least one greenspace within walking or cycling distance from their home. Close to half of the parents (45.4 %) reported that they had four types of greenspaces (beach, lake or river; forest; and park) within walking or cycling distance from their home. Only 1.3 % of parents reported having no greenspace within walking or cycling distance. Age and geographic location were the only socio-economic factors linked to frequency of use – gender, ethnicity, education, and income were not significant.  Adolescents used greenspace less frequently than younger children. The strongest predictor of using greenspace almost every day related to the number of types of greenspaces within walking or cycling distance from home. Parental concern and support were also predictors of use, but to a lesser extent than accessibility. Parents lack of encouragement towards their child using greenspaces and not taking their child to greenspaces more often were reported as barriers to their children’s more frequent use of greenspace. Issues relating to safety were reported as the least experienced barrier to more frequent use.

This research found that being able to choose between various types of greenspaces within walking or cycling distance is a key predictor for greater frequency of greenspace use. Providing a variety of different greenspaces close to where families live may thus promote more frequent use of such spaces by children in the community.