Kids and Teens are the Highly Effective Climate Change Communicators, Study Finds
North Carolina State University study investigates the power of intergenerational learning, and how daughters and sons may hold the key to swaying climate denying parents.
The study by Lawson, et al, was conducted over a two year period and included 238 American children (aged 10-14) and their parents. The study addresses the socio-ideological barriers that certain adults face when confronted with climate change concern and how to better communicate climate realities to them. The study investigates the communication capacity of their children to impact and shift parent’s worldviews towards more climate-friendly perspectives through intergenerational learning.
Among adults, political ideology and resulting personal identity are central factors that influence their concern and belief in human-caused climate change. This means that adults are highly bound by their political beliefs and are therefore less easily swayed by empirical evidence that counters those beliefs. In order for climate change communications to be effective, methods must transcend ideological barriers. Standard education for adults on climate change has been ineffective; even polarizing.
In contrast to adults, children and young people are less influenced by socio-ideological barriers with regards to climate change education. Young people have significantly higher plasticity when it comes to their worldviews and ideologies. Equipping young people with climate education specifically relating to intergenerational learning to influence parents, as well as facts regarding local changes in climate, has proven to be a highly effective communications model.
Surprisingly, concern about climate change increased the most dramatically among those identifying as male conservatives, who were initially proven to be most skeptical. The level of concern among male conservatives more than doubled over the course of the study, which is markedly different from previous studies of openness within this demographic to interventions in climate change awareness. Furthermore, the study found that daughters were particularly effective in shifting the attitudes of their parents.
Authors Lawson et al. attribute this effective communication strategy to the unique nature of the parent-child relationship, and see this as an important and scalable tool for communicating about climate change and cutting across ideological barriers.
Drastic changes will need to take place in many aspects of society and culture in order to cut emissions and consumption, to diversify carbon based economies and to adapt to the changes that are already taking place, therefore effective communications methods are needed to influence those who are resistant to change. If children can influence parents at the dinner table, and invite adults to move beyond decades-held worldviews and ideologies into a more climate-friendly perspective and identity, then we may get more buy in from those that we thought might never come around to this climate reality.
To read more, you can find the published study here.