Joshua Tree  : beautiful Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Treer national park in afternoon sunLush Growth Natural  : Hiking trail in tropical jungle

Did you know that according to the best social science available children who grow up in nurturing environments are less likely to be involved in drugs, crime, or suffer significant physical or psychological problems. When there are problems, these environment lessen the time it takes to heal and the suffering.  Wow!  And, duh!

I mean, really, do you need a bunch of advanced researchers and clinicians in medicine, psychology, and public health to tell you that nurturing environments reduce crime, drug use, and physical and psychological problems?  Still, too often we gloss over what a nurturing environment looks like: Nurturing environments are free of aversive events, such as harsh, abusive, manipulative, threatening, insulting behavior, because aversive events increase physiological stress that increases disease risk processes and derail healthy development.

Nurturing environments also encourage prosocial behavior through modeling, reward, and limit setting. Prosocial behavior is acting in ways that are sensitive and responsive to other people’s needs, values, and wishes. Parents, teachers, siblings, and caregivers who treat children in a respectful, consistent, and supportive manner are much more likely to raise toddlers, children, teens, and youth who also behave pro-socially and surround themselves with pro-social peers.

Nurturing environments go beyond our own front doors because in a nurturing environment there is biological safety with access to clean water, soil, air and psychological safety with few violent events in the media and in the schools. We are challenged to provide a nurturing environment by our own behavioral habits. We are responsible for creating a nurturing environment for yourself and to reduce our own risk for disease. If you are smoking, drinking, not physically active, or not eating with balance you are not nurturing yourself. We are responsible for acknowledging when we are angry and coping effectively in order to care for others. This kind of commitment has been described as psychological flexibility and it depends on both finding resources and balancing demands while mindfully attending to our goals. It is not easy — that is what makes it so valuable.

Nurturing environments happen when we are clear about our values and goals. When we monitor or success and come up with solutions for the things that interfere with our success.  It takes practice to learn new behaviors and monitoring to change. The most important fact is that a lot of common sense and good research has demonstrated that these things matter.In the next posts, we will talk about ways to practicing nurturing yourself, your family, and your world.

Those struggling plants in the photo are so impressive. They are also rare, fragile, and relatively unlikely to survive. If you survived that harsh environment, you have much to celebrate but let’s work together to change the conditions.

Together we can ACT to reduce risk and enhance success.


For more information see:

Biglan, A., Flay, B.R, Embry, D.D., & Sandler, I. (2011). The Critical Role for Nurturing Environments for Human Well-Being. American Psychologist, Vol. 67, ppg. 257 – 271.

National Research Council & Institute of Medicine. (2009). Preventing
mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people:
Progress and possibilities (M. E. O”Connell, T. Boat, & K. E. Warner,
Eds.). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.