Morality, Identity & Environmental Sustainability
Wilfrid Laurier University
Study on Environmentally Sustainable Behaviour
It has been demonstrated that young children take a strong moral stance towards protecting the natural environment (Kahn, 1999). But how do children and adolescents develop sensitivity for the need to protect the natural environment along with the ability to regulate their own behavior accordingly as they become adults? This question of is of pressing importance. Yet, developmental psychology has very little to say about it.
Research shows that teenagers in western industrialized societies become less engaged in sustainable behaviors such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction and recycling as they grow older (Krettenauer, 2017). This trend is paralleled and partly explained by decreases in feelings of connectedness with nature. While these findings provide a somewhat troubling view on the development of sustainable behaviour in youth, the research conducted so far is solely based on cross-sectional data that confound generational differences with developmental effects of age. Thus, what looks as a decline in adolescent sustainable behaviour with increasing age may also indicate an increased awareness for pro-environmental issues in younger birth cohorts. Because of this ambiguity, it is essential to run a longitudinal study that tracks individual development of sustainable behaviour over an extended period of time.