Restorative experience, self-regulation, and children’s place preferences
More than one-quarter (27%) of all the children in the sample, aged from 8 to 13, reported that they went to their favorite place both after emotionally challenging events and for cognitive restoration and relaxation more generally.
Korpela, K., Kyttä, M., & Hartig, T. (2002). Restorative experience, self-regulation, and children’s place preferences. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22(4), 387-398.
We examined the role of restorative experience and self regulation in the formation of place preferences by Finnish children. Girls and boys (n ¼ 55) aged 8 to 9 or 12 to 13 and living in downtown Tampere or Helsinki answered open- and closed-ended questions in a structured interview. One or both parents completed a questionnaire. We did not ¢nd statistically signifcant associations between age or gender and type of favorite place, nor was a particular type of favorite place named disproportionately often, independent of age and gender. The latter result contrasts with previous findings with young adults. However, like young adults, over half of the children appeared to use their favorite places for cognitive restoration. One-third of the children reported using their favorite places for emotion-regulation. Use of the favorite place for restoration and emotion-regulation did not necessarily imply visiting the favorite place alone; however, 12 to 13-year-olds were more likely than the younger age group to visit the favorite place with friends. Surprisingly, many parents did not know their child’s favorite place.
Previous studies in this series have used favorite places as a window into environmental strategies of self-regulation and, as an integral process, emotion regulation. The evidence suggests that experiences commonly associated with favorite places involve changes in emotions and cognitions characteristic of restoration, and that favorite places typically have high levels of restorative qualities (Korpela, 1989; Korpela & Hartig, 1996). In the most recent study (Korpela et al., 2001), the young adult participants identified natural and residential environments as their favorite places with disproportionate frequency, and they most frequently linked restorative experiences with natural favorite places. These findings about types of favorite places constitute a bridge to research on restorative environments, in which natural and residential environments have drawn the most attention.
All of the children in our sample reported having a favorite place. Of the favorite places they identified, sport settings as well as residential settings appeared to be over represented and natural and community service settings (including retail settings) underrepresented (see Table 1).
When we consider the most frequently mentioned favorite places, the fact that activities and friends were spontaneously mentioned most frequently as reasons for going to the favorite place, and that most children visited their favorite place four times a week (spending two and a half hours per visit), we get a picture of ‘normal’, active, and peer-oriented Finnish children. Beneath this surface, however, we found that 55% of all the children (75% of children giving consistent answers to the scale items) reported a desire to pour out troubles, reflect on personal matters, to clear one’s mind, and feel free and relaxed in the favorite place.
In closing, we found that more than one-quarter (27%) of all the children in our sample, aged from 8 to 13, reported that they went to their favorite place both after emotionally challenging events and for cognitive restoration and relaxation more generally.