Experiencing nature to satisfy basic psychological needs in parenting: A quasi-experiment in family shelters

Elise Peters*, Jolanda Maas, Dieuwke Hovinga, Nicole Van Den Bogerd, Carlo Schuengel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Finding fulfillment of basic psychological needs may be difficult for parents living in shelters after becoming homeless or after escaping violence. This study tested if experiencing nature was associated with the basic psychological needs of parents in shelters. Need satisfaction and need frustration were measured among parents in shelters (N = 160), with one measurement in the standard indoor context of the shelter and one measurement while experiencing nature. Experiencing nature was associated with enhanced need satisfaction (d = 0.28) and reduced need frustration (d = -0.24). The effect was especially pronounced for parents with young children. Our findings suggest that the physical environment matters for parents’ basic psychological need fulfillment as they interact with their children in the context of sheltering. This finding opens a potential avenue for supporting parental functioning and resilience in the face of risk if these effects were to be replicated across settings using controlled experimental designs. At the very least, the findings may be discussed with practitioners and parents in the context of making shelter life and work more conducive to mental health and family functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8657
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2020


  • Abused women
  • Basic psychological needs
  • Homeless families
  • Natural environment
  • Parents
  • Shelter


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