Researchers at North Carolina State University studied how educating children about climate change could influence the climate concerns of their parents. Researchers have long believed that kids can impact their parents’ behaviors and opinions on social issues, but this study is the first to focus on climate change.
During the study, the researchers gave children a strong foundation in climate science and cultivated critical thinking skills but said they did not teach the kids to be activists.
The results of the paper, published in Nature Climate Change, showed that children were able to influence their parents’ climate change attitudes.
These findings shed light on a possible new avenue for educating the public on climate-related issues. The study stated that those who don’t believe in climate change typically have social, political or religious reasons for their disbelief. The socio-ideological polarization of the climate change debate results in further divides between believers and deniers. Researchers expressed hope that educating youth on climate science issues can help reduce this divide.
Children may be able to better explain to their parents why believing in climate change and taking action aligns with their values.
The study determined whether a parent’s opinion had been changed by evaluating their levels of belief and concern when it comes to climate-related issues. To do this, researchers took a variety of factors into account, such as whether the parents of sons versus daughters saw more change in their climate change attitudes or vice versa.
They concluded that there was a slightly more significant change in belief when the child was a boy than when the child was a girl. Researchers stated that this may be related to the gendered perception of science-related fields and suggested increasing science education among girls in order to work against these gender roles and improve future results for parents of daughters.
However, daughters were more effective in encouraging levels of concern in their parents. Researchers hope to look into this more thoroughly in future studies.
The study also found that it was more effective to focus on local climate change issues than national or global ones. It was also more effective to emphasize field-based experiences that encouraged the participation of parents.
In the future, researchers hope to study how the nature of relationships between parents and children affected the results of this study. Ultimately, increased climate concern by child-parent learning may lead to greater collective action, which researchers said is needed to slow the effects of climate change.