DOI: 10.1177/01650254231222436 ISSN: 0165-0254

Age differences and profiles in pro-environmental behavior and eco-emotions

Csilla Ágoston, Bernadett Balázs, Ferenc Mónus, Attila Varga
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Education

Previous research suggests that age-related differences in pro-environmental behavior (PEB) and the emotional reactions to climate change could originate from generational as well as aging effects and can be influenced by the opportunities and constraints of life circumstances and resources. The current research aimed to better understand age differences through examining the eco-emotions and PEBs of different age groups, and identifying latent groups differing on these variables. In Sample 1, adults from the general population ( n = 4,685) filled out questionnaires assessing eco-anxiety, eco-guilt, and ecological grief and answered 12 questions about their PEBs. In Sample 2 (A), the same PEB questions were answered by high school students ( n = 112) and in Sample 2 (P) by one of their parents ( n = 112). There were no age differences in the overall PEB score, but we found significant, nonlinear differences between age groups in almost all individual PEBs. Eco-friendly clothing and using greener transport were more common in the younger age groups, while older age groups had higher scores in conservation, recycling, reduced meat consumption, and boycotting. Students were less likely to recycle, use reusable bags, eat less meat and save water than their parents, but more likely to use greener transportation. Five latent groups emerged on the eco-emotions and PEB measures. Young adults had a higher probability of belonging to the medium/higher anxiety groups than the older generations, except for those in their 70s. Groups with higher emotional concern showed higher behavioral involvement. Since most participants showed a moderate level of worry, this emotional reaction appears a normative response to the climate crisis and also a possible starting point for promoting PEBs. The findings also suggest that each generation has its preferences in terms of PEBs, and it is worthwhile to address each of the different PEBs separately.

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