The effects of a simulated nature experience on the physiological and behavioural responses of young children with post-traumatic stress symptoms
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Post-traumatic stress symptoms are a common reaction to experiencing a traumatic event such as a natural disaster. Young children may be at an increased risk for such mental health problems as these catastrophic events may coincide with developmentally sensitive periods of development. Treatments currently recommended for children with post-traumatic stress symptoms insufficiently acknowledge the role of neurobiological stress related systems responsible for these symptoms. As such, alternative approaches to the treatment of posttraumatic symptoms have been explored, with nature-based interventions offering a potential alternative based on two different theories that uphold the stress reducing benefits of natural environments. To date, there are a limited number of experimental studies that have explored the use of nature-based interventions with children, and no known research that has used a simulated nature experience with child participants. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a simulated nature experience on the physiological and behavioural responses of children with post-traumatic stress symptoms that experienced the Christchurch earthquakes. A single-case research design with repeated measures of heart rate and teacherreported behaviour was gathered across a 20-day period. Heart rate data was collected before and after participants watched a 10-minute nature video, while data from a teacher rating scale provided information about the participants’ behaviours in the 30-minute period after they watched the nature video. Comparisons made to data collected during two different baseline phases indicated that the nature video intervention had no recognisable effects on the participants’ physiological and behavioural stress responses. Limitations to the current study are discussed as possible reasons for the incompatibility between the current study’s results and the findings from previous research. Suggestions are made for any future replications of the study.