We are currently running a longitudinal study investigating developmental change in sustainable behaviour from early to late adolescence by employing a time-sequential design. This study seeks to better understand the cognitive and emotional factors that account for the decline in pro-environmental behaviors in adolescence, and makes it possible to study developmental change in sustainable behavior while taking potential time-of-measurement effects into account.
The study involves asking teenagers how they feel about various environmentally sustainable topics, such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and recycling. In its totality, the study allows for the investigation of how adolescents' moral judgments, self- and other evaluative emotions, emotional affinity for nature as well as mechanisms of moral disengagement influence sustainable behaviour over time, and vice versa. It provides data for identifying different developmental trajectories of sustainable behaviour and for analyzing factors that suppress sustainable behaviour during the adolescent years versus factors that may counteract this tendency.
Even though longitudinal studies are essential for studying development of sustainable behaviour they are time consuming and costly. Sample size is limited. Therefore, we are running a second major study to expand and complement the longitudinal data set. This cross-sectional expansion includes two additional adult age groups as well as a comparison of rural and urban ecologies across Canada. The project allows us to investigate the generalizability and replicability of the longitudinal findings, increase the age range under study into adulthood and make it possible to gauge the influence of rural versus urban macro-systems on the development of sustainable behaviour.
Taken together, both studies will greatly enhance our understanding of how sustainable behaviour develops from adolescence into adulthood. This knowledge is essential for societies to effectively promote sustainability behaviour in future generations.