Research Summary

A qualitative investigation of Californian youth interests in the outdoors

California children want to engage in more outdoor activities, but face a number of constraints

Journal of Youth Development

The purpose of this study by Goldenberg and colleagues was to investigate California children's outdoor recreation attitudes, behaviors, and constraints. The researchers framed the context for the study as concern about risks to young people under unsupervised after-school experiences as well as benefits to them academically, socially, and physically from recreational opportunities. They chose to go directly to the youth for insights, including the students’ perceptions of the barriers to their recreational opportunities.
Researchers held eight focus groups with a total of 72 10- to 17-year-old children from community recreation centers in four large cities within different geographical regions in California. Goldenberg and colleagues asked children ten questions about their outdoor recreation experiences.
In analyzing the interview data in terms of dominant themes, researchers found many interesting results, including the following: Children mentioned a variety of activities that they participated in outdoors, including skateboarding, camping, swimming, hiking, football, soccer, and biking. On an average day, children reported spending a median of 3 to 4 hours outside. 81% of children said that they would like to spend more time outside. Children reported that they would like to try a variety of outdoor activities, including rock climbing, snowboarding, skydiving, ice hockey, and bungee jumping. Children mentioned that what they most liked about being outside was having fun/enjoyment, experiencing new places/things, and relaxing. Children reported that what they liked least about being outside was the weather and safety concerns. Children mentioned that family influence, school/homework, and technology/electronics most often keep them from spending time outside. Children reported wanting more amenities at parks and safety improvements. Children highlighted the importance of family members and club/camp/center programs in facilitating their participation in outdoor activities.

This study provides valuable information, from the perspective of children and youth, to help inform future research efforts, as well as program and park development efforts and policies.