Greenness of residential neighborhoods is associated with less problematic behavior in children

Lee, M., Kim, S., & Ha, M. (2019). Community greenness and neurobehavioral health in children and adolescents. Science Of The Total Environment, 672, 381-388.

Research studies have documented positive associations between neighborhood greenness and numerous health benefits. Few studies, however, have explored relationships between residential greenness and children's neurobehavioral health. This study addressed this gap in the literature by examining the association between neighborhood greenness of children's residential area and their neurobehavioral health.

Data for this study was based on parent or guardian assessments of their children's neurobehavioral health as measured by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).  Assessments were completed on 1817 children (age 6-18) living in South Korea. The CBCL consists of 100 questions relating to children's behavioral and social problems. Scores are calculated separately for internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Areas relating to internalizing problems include anxious/depressed, withdrawn/depressed, and somatic complaints. Areas relating to externalizing problems include rule-breaking behaviors and aggressive behaviors. Satellite imagery operated by NASA was used to measure neighborhood greenness around the residence of each child. Three levels of greenness were used in the analysis: low, moderate, high. Other information collected for this study included children's age, gender, level of physical activity, monthly family income, exposure to second-hand smoke, exposure to NO2 (air pollution), and blood lead level.

Findings showed that greenness of residential neighborhood was associated with less problematic behavior in children. This association was stronger for externalizing behavior (especially aggressive behaviors), as well as attention problems, than internalizing behavior. The association was also strongest when the distance for calculating level of greenness was 1500–2000 meters. The data did not show significant differences by age, gender, urbanicity and level of physical activity.

These findings call attention to the role of greenness in residential neighborhoods in supporting children's neurobehavioral health. These findings add support to the research-based understanding that greenness in urban neighborhoods offer numerous benefits for the residents. As such, these findings  have policy implications for city planners.

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