The impact of parenthood on environmental attitudes and behaviour: a longitudinal investigation of the legacy hypothesis

Gregory O. Thomas, Rose Fisher, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Taciano L. Milfont, Wouter Poortinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Willingness to engage in sustainable actions may be limited by the psychological distance of climate change. In this study, we test the legacy hypothesis, which holds that having children leads parents to consider the legacy left to offspring in respect of environmental quality. Using the Understanding Society dataset, a longitudinal survey representative of the UK population (n = 18,176), we assess how having children may change people’s individual environmental attitudes and behaviour. Results indicate that having a new child is associated with a small decrease in the frequency of a few environmental behaviours. Only parents with already high environmental concern show a small increase in the desire to act more sustainably after the birth of their first child. Overall, the results do not provide evidence in support of the legacy hypothesis in terms of individual-level environmental attitudes and behaviours. We argue that the transition to parenthood is a time where concern is prioritised on the immediate wellbeing of the child and not on the future environmental threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-276
Number of pages16
JournalPopulation and Environment
Volume39
Issue number3
Early online date18 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

Keywords

  • Environmental attitudes
  • Environmental behaviour
  • Environmental concern
  • Longitudinal
  • Parenthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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