Kids teach parents to respect the environment

February 13, 2013

A child can directly influence the attitude and behaviour of their parents towards the environment without them even knowing it.

This is according to a group at Imperial College London who have, for the first time, provided quantitative support for the suggestion that environmental education can be transferred between generations and that it can actually affect behaviour.

Their findings have been published today, 13 February, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters.

The study took part on the Mahé Island in the Republic of Seychelles, where there is a very strong history of environmental education. The researchers based their study around the degradation of in the country's wetlands, which is being caused by litter, wetland reclamation and household wastewater.

A total of 15 wildlife clubs, who each provide to children in the school system through a series of activities, took part in the study.

"School children in the Seychelles are fortunate to have a curriculum that emphasises the teaching of environmental concepts across a broad range of subjects," said lead author of the study Peter Damerell of Imperial's Department of .

"In addition, NGO-supported wildlife clubs are present within all and represent an opportunity to undertake more detailed and interactive activities than are possible within the classroom setting alone."

Of the 15 wildlife clubs involved in the study, seven participated in wetland activities over a 12-month period, whilst the remaining eight worked on alternative subjects; 161 students were involved overall.

Questionnaires were issued to all of the students, as well as their parents, and were based on multiple aspects of wetland knowledge, such as the different species that live in the wetlands and the threats that they're being exposed to.

The questionnaires issued to the parents also included questions on their use of water, which were specifically designed to test how conscious they were of water shortages – there were 16 possible behaviours that a parent was scored on.

Results showed that a child's participation in the activities not only increased their parent's knowledge of the wetlands but also their behaviour – parents were more inclined to conserve water if their child participated in the wetland activity.

It is possible that the parents had a varying amount of wetland knowledge before the study; however, they had no control over which group their child was placed in, meaning the overall differences shown between the experimental and control group can be assumed to be down to the wetlands teaching.

Indeed, the researchers tested a wide range of possible explanatory variables for the observed differences in wetland knowledge and it was those related to children receiving wetland education at Wildlife Club Seychelles that were consistently the best at explaining the observed results.

"Within this study, parents were often shown to be unaware that they were gaining environmental knowledge via their children. This finding alone highlights the need for more quantitative, experimental style investigations into the capacity of children to influence their parent's knowledge and household behaviours.

"By providing evidence that shows children can cause their to take up more environmental practices, we hope that many more studies will attempt to look at how much knowledge is transferred under different scenarios, and which pieces of information are most likely to change household practices," continued Damerell.

Explore further: Parents' knowledge of children's daycare experience incomplete, study finds

More information:

Related Stories

Parents' knowledge of children's daycare experience incomplete, study finds

December 11, 2012
Nearly 1.5 million Canadian children grow up living double lives: one at home with their parents and another in some form of childcare environment. While parents hope to be informed of what goes on when they're not around, ...

Working mothers and the effects on children

July 22, 2011
Parents struggling to combine paid work with bringing up their children now have some positive news thanks to a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on maternal employment and child socio-emotional ...

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.