Access to Nature Key to Reducing Violence

While the correlation between population density and higher rates of violent crime are well established, little consensus exists on ways to combat this seemingly intractable problem.

With our planet’s urban centers becoming increasingly crowded, the need to mitigate violent behavior as more and more neighbors lose elbow room becomes more pressing.

A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology by researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign suggests increasing green space can stem the rise in violence that accompanies a rise in population density.

According to “Views of Nature and Self Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children,” increased access to natural settings by children corresponded with an increase in self discipline, the ability to concentrate, inhibition of impulsive behavior and a willingness to delay gratification. Such strengths are among those associated with less violent behavior.

The study focuses on young girls and boys in nearly identical high rise buildings with varying access to green space. These girls were given tests to display their level of self discipline. Researchers found those girls with more access to green space tested significantly higher—sometimes as much as 20 percent higher.

The study concluded that boys were effected by more distant green spaces.

While increased green space seems like an easy fix, in modern cities the priorities tend to be housing and commercial space. However, small urban farms, greenhouses and gardens are becoming increasingly popular in the inner city.

These productive green spaces are readily adaptable to smaller spaces and intensive resource management.

For more information, check out the study here.