Conceptualising adolescents’ pro-environmental behaviour: an exploration in Cyprus with reference to Scotland
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date16/01/2023
Shippi, Athina Georgiou
There is now a global ecological and environmental crisis of unprecedented magnitude, severity and scale, which threatens current and future generations’ well-being. Given the influence of human behaviour on the natural environment addressing current and future environmental issues requires changes in our behaviour. In order to enhance and promote pro-environmental behaviours, one must understand what determines and influences behaviour. This is especially important to consider in adolescents (12-19 years old) given that young people will become those responsible for future environmental protection and will be facing future environmental issues. Whilst previous studies, behavioural models and theoretical frameworks have identified a number of potential behaviour determinants and potential influences, there is still confusion in the literature regarding their definitions and their exact role in determining behaviour. Additionally, despite the successful application of behavioural models, complexities and interrelations between behaviour, determinants and influences have been identified complicating understanding. Also, differences in operationalisation and interpretation of models further complicate conclusions. To conceptualise adolescents’ pro-environmental behaviours, this research explored and evaluated adolescents’ pro-environmental behaviour and behaviour determinants (i.e., environmental attitudes and knowledge), their potential influences (i.e., nature and biodiversity perceptions, nature experiences, connections with nature and current and preferred environmental education practices) and identified potential relationships within and between them. This allowed for further insights regarding how these are understood, the incorporation and simultaneous exploration of a number of determinants and influences from different behavioural models and frameworks and also the exploration of relationships within and between models and frameworks and with pro-environmental behaviours enhancing our current understanding. This research adopted a multiple case study design approach in two different socio-cultural settings, Cyprus and Scotland, with a focus on Cyprus and employed mixed research methods in two data collection phases. Phase one explored and described phenomena in both Cyprus and Scotland. It involved group discussions with 24 groups of 4-8 adolescents, and used A2 posters as a discussion schedule on which participants recorded their ideas. Based on findings from phase one, phase two evaluated and explored phenomena in further depth and identified potential relationships between them. It involved questionnaires with adolescents (Scotland: N=40, Cyprus: N=475) and semi-structured interviews with 5 teachers in Cyprus. Phase two also involved the actualisation of adolescents’ environmental education preferences. This consisted of outdoor environmental education activities with adolescents (Scotland=1 group, Cyprus=7 groups) which were evaluated using questionnaires before and after they took place. Results provide support for previous scholars’ claims regarding the multidimensionality and complexity of pro-environmental behaviours and behaviour determinants whilst also indicating differences in variable aspects. Particularly, whilst some adolescents were able to identify pro-environmental behaviours, were concerned about issues, perceived issues as important and had some environmental knowledge, this was not true for everyone. Results also indicated differences in how often individuals undertake different behaviours, differences in perceptions regarding the importance of different issues, differences in attitudes towards different behaviours, differences in reasoning for being concerned and for undertaking the different behaviours. Moreover, results indicated a number of statistically significant relationships within and between some but not all behaviours and determinants. Additionally, results also provide support for previous scholars’ claims regarding the multidimensionality and complexity of potential influences and indicated the existence of relationships between aspects of the different influences and pro-environmental behaviour and behaviour determinants. With regards to nature perceptions the results indicated a focus on the absence of humans and differences in how different areas are perceived. For contact with nature, the results indicated differences in the levels of engagement with different outdoor areas and differing perceptions of whether nature can be experienced indoors. Results regarding nature connections, indicated strong personal nature connections and a negative relationship between humans and nature. The results also indicated a lack of environmental education courses undertaken by adolescents and as part of the Cyprus school curriculum, the consideration of courses such as Geography and Biology as environmental education courses and preferences by adolescents and educators regarding what environmental education practices should consist of. Additionally, results indicated a number of statistically significant relationships between pro-environmental behaviour, determinants and potential influences. Moreover, this research also indicated that designing environmental education activities based on adolescents’ preferences is achievable and the research’s approach can act as a methodological starting point for developing and evaluating future initiatives based on participatory approaches. The examination of adolescents’ and educators’ current and preferred environmental education practices allowed for the identification of several practice recommendations. Particularly, this research advocates (a) the incorporation of courses focused on environmental education in school curricula, reducing bureaucracy issues and dependence on teachers’ initiatives for course development; (b) the consideration of adolescents’ preferences and adolescents involvement in course design; (c) undertaking courses in both indoor and outdoor locales; (d) consideration of educators’ inputs when planning, and with regards to topic, locale and speaker selection; (e) the incorporation of hands-on, fun, interesting and researching activities and (f) the involvement of educators/speakers who are passionate, relatable and kind-hearted. This research advocates the unravelling and evaluation of the multidimensionality of behaviours, determinants and influences; the combination of behavioural models and frameworks and the evaluation of variables potential effects; and the use of socio-ecological frameworks to conceptualise pro-environmental behaviours in different contexts.