Research Summary

The relationship between green space and prosocial behaviour among children and adolescents: A systematic review

Nearby urban green space is positively linked to the development of prosocial behaviors in children and adolescents

Frontiers in Psychology

Individual studies published in academic journals suggest a possible causal link between urban green space and prosocial behaviors in children. This systematic review of the existing literature examined how the published evidence addresses the hypothesized direction and magnitude of such an association.

Fifteen studies were included in this review. The studies focused on children and adolescents. Most of the studies were conducted in European and US countries. While the criteria for inclusion placed no restriction on publication date, all eligible studies were published between 2012 and 2019. More than half were published between 2017 and 2019.

Findings included a total of 63 associations between green space and prosocial behavior. Forty-four were in the positive or expected direction; of these, 18 were reported to be statistically significant. The positive behavioral outcomes included offering help, sharing, cooperating, and comforting. Twenty associations between green space quantity and prosocial behavior were in the expected direction. Only two of these were statistically significant. Five associations were in the unexpected direction; one to a statistically significant level. “The small number of statistically significant associations in expected direction might be due to limitations in measurements.”

The overall findings of this review suggest that the development of prosocial behavior may be associated with exposure to higher levels of nearby green space. An assessment of quality and risk of bias of the articles, however, indicates that the quality of evidence for this association is not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions around causality or to offer specific guidance for specific interventions. While potential modifiers of the relationship between green space and prosocial behavior were evident in some studies, more research is needed in this area. Some evidence presented in this review indicates that socio-demographic background moderates associations between green space and prosocial behavior. Of special concern is evidence indicating that green space inequalities exist in some settings. Included within this review is a conceptual framework describing potential pathways linking green space to prosocial behavior. Also included is a discussion about magnitude, moderators, and mediators of the association. Recommendations for further research are offered.