Exploring children’s nature-based place attachment in high-density metropolitan areas

Grantham Scholar Rong Zheng explores nature-based place attachment with respect to Chinese children. 

The project

This study explores children’s perceptions of nature in urban China through the concept of nature-based place attachment. Place attachment concerns the emotional links with a place, feeling that have been shown to be strong in natural places. Many studies have indicated that greater place attachment can contribute to children’s wellbeing, enhancing their senses of belonging and identity, collective efficacy and development. This investigation will explore which natural places Chinese urban children feel attached to, and why, with a view to supporting the development of more child-friendly cities in which children’s use of the urban environment is considered and the children’s voices are heard.

While there is an established literature examining children’s diminishing interactions with nature in western cities, there is little knowledge about how urbanised Chinese children interact with nature. Although some trends, for example, limited freedom to roam in nature are to be expected to be similar to those experiences by western children, the distinct differences between Chinese and Western lifestyles, cultures and urban planning have the potential to mean there is a uniquely Chinese childhood perspective on nature in the city. By contributing to an evidence base about children’s current interactions with urban nature, the study aspires to inform future policy, particularly with respect to urban planning as well as childhood health and wellbeing. In this way the investigation contributes primarily to SDG11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and also to SDGs 3, concerning health and wellbeing.

The research will ask: 1. What are the influential characteristics of urban natural spaces which attract children and motivate them to spend time in urban nature? 2. How do the characteristics of urban natural spaces relate to and affect children’s place attachment? 3. What might natural spaces look like if they were designed in response to children’s preferences through (participatory) design? 4. What are the implications of the findings from questions 1-3 for urban design in High-density Metropolitan Areas?

The research will focus on HangZhou as an example of a typical Chinese high-density city. It will use qualitative research methods with a sample of 7-12 year old children from primary schools. The qualitative data will be collected by participatory mapping, focus groups and co-design.


Professor Liz Sharp

Department of Urban Studies and Planning


Dr Michael Martin

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Professor Helen Woolley

Department of Landscape Architecture