ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (7): 1254-1268.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.01254

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The phenomenon and mechanism of intergenerational transmission of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors

LI Xin1, LIU Zhenhui3, LUO Jie4, JIN Tonglin1,2, JIA Yanru1, WU Yuntena1,2()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Hohhot 010022, China
    2Mental Health Education Research and Service Base, Key Research Base of Humanities and Social Science in Inner Mongolia Colleges and Universities, Hohhot 010022, China
    3College of Teacher Education, Honghe University, Mengzi 661199, China
    4School of Psychology, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550025, China
  • Received:2022-08-23 Online:2023-07-15 Published:2023-04-23
  • Contact: WU Yuntena


Intergenerational transmission in the field of environmental psychology and behaviors is an important fulcrum for sustainable development. Existing studies mainly focus on the intergenerational transmission effects and mechanisms of pro-environmental attitudes (such as environmental values, environmental concern, sustainable consumption attitudes) and pro-environmental behaviors (such as energy saving behaviors, recycling behaviors, green consumption behaviors). Traditional approaches to the study of relationships among generations view ecosocialization as a top-down phenomenon in which parents transmit their attitudes and behaviors to their children in a unidirectional and often deterministic manner. However, although there is evidence of intergenerational correlation between pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, it has not been proved that parents influence children’s pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors through the process of socialization. Family socialization is a dynamic and interactive process, in which parents and children will be reciprocal influences and counterinfluence. (Several theoretical considerations suggest that the influence of parents and children is reciprocal). Children are not only passive receivers of the socialization process, they are also active agents, passing on information and knowledge from schooling, peers and the mass media to their parents. In addition, in most families, parents and children live in a shared socio-cultural context, which further complicates the interpretation of intergenerational correlation. Based on the socialization theory and parent-child values similarity framework, and integrating existing studies, the authors propose a intergenerational transmission framework of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. In this framework, we argue for considering intergenerational correlation as the result of a complex network of mutual influences among parents, children, and their shared environments. The intergenerational transmission has three interdependent pathways of socialization: (1) parents influence their children, through modeling learning, parent-child communication, parent-child participation; (2) children influence their parents, that is, the process of reverse intergenerational transmission; (3) parents and children are influenced by the shared social and cultural environment, that is, the process of cultural acculturation. We argue that the three processes for intergenerational correlation should be viewed as interdependent, compatible, working jointly. Among them, parents influence their children and reverse intergenerational transmission are a dynamic process. The former occurs earliest in childhood and persists into adolescence, while the latter mostly occurs in later adolescence. Future research should be carried out from four aspects. (1) Construct a dynamic model of intergenerational transmission by longitudinally tracking parent-child interactions and children’s developmental trajectories, and explore in depth the potential mechanisms of intergenerational transmission, such as parental characteristics, children’s characteristics, parent-child relationship. (2) Strengthen the research of intergenerational transmission in the context of Chinese culture, and explore in depth the role of horizontal socialization factors (e.g., peer influence, school environmental educations, mass media) in promoting and blocking intergenerational transmission. (3) Explore the potential mechanism of intergenerational transmission in different fields, and summarize the domain universality and domain specificity of intergenerational transmission, in order to better understand the formation and development of individual psychological and behavioral patterns. (4) Future research needs to construct a family-based environmental education mechanism that involves both parents and children generations to promote the application of research results.

Key words: intergenerational transmission, pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, transmission mechanism, reverse intergenerational transmission, enculturation

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