269476 Family communication and climate-friendly behavior

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 5:30 PM - 5:50 PM

Connie Roser-Renouf, PhD, MS , Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, CA
June Flora, PhD, MA , HSTAR-Human Sciences Advanced Research Institute, Stanford University, Menlo Park, CA
Ed Maibach, PhD, MPH , Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Anthony Leiserowitz, PhD, MS , School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Today's children face a changing climate, and the lessons they learn at home about sustainable, climate-friendly behavior may help reduce the health threats they will face in the future. Family norms to conserve or consume may support or inhibit sustainable behavior; given that multiple individuals must cooperate in conservation, interpersonal communication and conflicting beliefs and preferences are important potential factors in household conservation. This study focuses on inter-generational communication in relation to climate-friendly beliefs and behaviors. The study's data are 523 nationally representative parent-adolescent dyads, randomly selected to participate in an online survey in 2010. Analyses focus on assessing the influence of parents and adolescents on each others' attitudes and behaviors, in light of the quality of communication between them, and the frequency of their climate-related communication. We find that parents and adolescents with high-quality communication have more congruent beliefs and attitudes. Dyads that frequently discuss climate change have higher risk and efficacy perceptions, perceive climate-friendly behaviors as more important, and engage in these behaviors more frequently. Regression analyses predicting adolescents' and parents' behaviors show that behavior is related not only to own beliefs, but also to family influence. Results suggest that parents' influence on adolescents is strongest through modeling climate-friendly behaviors: Parents' behavior adds 9 percent explained variance to adolescents' behavior, after controlling for demographics, the dyads' beliefs, and family communication (adj. R2=28.2%). In contrast, family communication is strongly predictive of parents' behavior, explaining 16 percent of its variance. Adolescents' behavior explains an additional 9 percent of variance in parents' behavior, beyond demographics, the dyads' beliefs, and family communication (adj. R2=46.4%). Family influence is thus exerted both through communication and behavior. The results will be discussed in relation to public information campaigns targeting adolescents and parents, and the development of campaign strategies that take into account family communication.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the mutual influence of parents and adolescents on each others' climate-relevant beliefs and behaviors, which occurs both through modeling and communication. 2. Discuss strategies for family-focused interventions, in light of these mutual influence processes.

Keywords: Climate Change, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a research professor at the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. I have a PhD in communication research, and helped design the survey instruments used in this research. I developed the hypotheses and analyzed the data that will be presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.