Mothers and daughters find spending time outdoors together strengthens communication and family connectedness
Twenty-six mothers and daughters participated in semi-structured interviews focusing on their experiences with family-based nature activities (FBNA), defined as two or more family members engaging in outdoor recreation. The mother and daughter interviews were conducted simultaneously but in separate rooms. This arrangement recognized the daughters (age 10-12) as active agents in their leisure decisions. Interview protocols with the mothers and daughters were almost identical, with the exception of mothers being asked to share additional information about changes over time.
Three themes emerged from an analysis of the interview responses: (1) mothers’ and daughters’ participation in FBNA, (2) individual and familial health benefits, and (3) constraints to participation. Walking together was the most frequently reported FBNA by both mothers and daughters, with walks taking place in the neighborhood, local parks, and other public recreation spaces. The most common outdoor place where mothers and daughters spent time together was the backyard, where eating, practicing sports, and gardening were typical activities. Other places and situations for FBNA included family trips and events in natural areas.
Almost all of the mothers and daughters reported experiencing a variety of health benefits associated with FBNA. While individual benefits were noted, family benefits were emphasized even more. Health benefits included increased physical activity and physical fitness, decreased stress, and positive impact on mood. Family benefits included improved communication and getting along better with each other. Constraints to FBNA included weather conditions and lack of time; and — in some situations — family members imposed participation constraints on each other. Changes in the developmental capabilities of daughters as they matured and in their growing need for independence highlighted the need for FBNA to evolve as children age.