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Kids can teach their parents to worry about climate change

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As anyone who has seen Greta Thunberg speak can confirm, children can teach their parents to be concerned about climate change. US researchers set out to test this theory - specifically to see if they could overcome ideological barriers to climate concern in adults indirectly via their tweenagers. Their plan was successful with the strongest changes seen in male and conservative parents who had displayed the lowest levels of climate concern before the intervention. They also found that daughters appeared to be particularly good at influencing their parents.

Journal/conference: Nature Climate Change

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41558-019-0463-3

Organisation/s: North Carolina State University, USA

Funder: The authors acknowledge North Carolina Sea Grant supported by the NOAA office of Sea Grant, United States Department of Commerce, under grant No. 2016-R/16- ELWD-1, for funding for this research.

Media release

From: Springer Nature

Children can foster climate change concern among their parents


The collective action that is required to mitigate and adapt to climate change is extremely difficult to achieve, largely due to socio-ideological biases that perpetuate polarization over climate change. Because climate change perceptions in children seem less susceptible to the influence of worldview or political context, it may be possible for them to inspire adults towards higher levels of climate concern, and in turn, collective action. Child-to-parent intergenerational learning—that is, the transfer of knowledge, attitudes or behaviours from children to parents—may be a promising pathway to overcoming socio-ideological barriers to climate concern. Here we present an experimental evaluation of an educational intervention designed to build climate change concern among parents indirectly through their middle school-aged children in North Carolina, USA. Parents of children in the treatment group expressed higher levels of climate change concern than parents in the control group. The effects were strongest among male parents and conservative parents, who, consistent with previous research, displayed the lowest levels of climate concern before the intervention. Daughters appeared to be especially effective in influencing parents. Our results suggest that intergenerational learning may overcome barriers to building climate concern.


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