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Developing a model of climate change behavior among adolescents

Abstract

Research on adolescent climate change perceptions has uncovered key insights about how knowledge, concern, and hope might relate to behavior and the potential for educational interventions to influence these factors. However, few of these studies have employed treatment/control designs that might address causality and none have addressed how these factors might interact to influence behavior. We developed a model of behavior change where a climate education treatment impacted knowledge, knowledge impacted hope and concern, and hope and concern together impacted behavior. We empirically tested the utility of this model and the causal relationships within it using a pre/post, treatment/control evaluation of climate education among adolescents in North Carolina, USA (n = 1041). We found support for a causal relationship between the treatment and gains in knowledge, but not between treatment and behavior. However, we did find support for a path model in which climate change knowledge positively relates to increased climate change concern and hope, and increases in concern and hope predict changes in pro-environmental behavior. Low SES was related to smaller gains in knowledge, concern, and behavior. Our results contribute to a theoretical understanding of climate change behaviors among adolescents and suggest that climate education aiming to change behavior should focus on building hope and concern.

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Notes

  1. Flora et al. (2014) define “edutainment” as an educational intervention that intertwines education material and popular entertainment content

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Christine Li and Martha Monroe at University of Florida for their valuable insights and project, as well as research team members Renee Strnad and Sarah Carrier.

Funding

This study received financial support from the NC Sea Grant (project ID no. 2014-R/16-ELWD-1).

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Correspondence to Kathryn T. Stevenson.

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Stevenson, K.T., Nils Peterson, M. & Bondell, H.D. Developing a model of climate change behavior among adolescents. Climatic Change 151, 589–603 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2313-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2313-0