Is it possible that today’s children suffer from Nature-Deficit Disorder?
At least in our imaginations children and nature are as inseparable at Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Kids seem born to run through the woods, fish, build forts, and explore their natural surroundings. But according to a new and, I think, rather intriguing theory, children are increasingly constrained by sanitized and regimented activities that alienate them from nature. The result may be worsening psychological problems for kids and may help explain the pervasiveness of that bogeyman of contemporary child development, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
I have no idea whether there’s any empirical merit to the case, but a new book, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, argues that children are more estranged from nature today than ever before. And because contact with the natural world can be a powerful remedy for ADHD, children’s alienation from nature may be contributing to the prevalence of ADHD.
I won’t blather on further now (I haven’t read the book), but it is worth pointing out a good book review in Orion Online that explains Louv’s reasoning and offers a glimpse of his research context. Seriously, it’s fascinating. If that’s not enough, read an interview with the author at Salon.com (free access if you watch a short ad).