Green Teens: Investigating the role of Emotional Intelligence in Adolescent Environmentalism

Robinson, A.C., Downey, L.A., Ford, T.C., Lomas, J.E., Stough, C. (2018). Green Teens: Investigating the role of Emotional Intelligence in Adolescent Environmentalism. Personality and Individual Differences, 138, 225-230. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2018.10.009

The destruction of our environment and depletion of its natural resources has been a recurring topic of interest and debate throughout modern history, with calls for education to increase public awareness of conservation commonly heard in many parts of the world.
This research paper discusses brand new Australian research in the area of environmentalism presented by Swinburne University and the Institute for Breathing and Sleep at The Austin Hospital in Melbourne. The authors talk about this generation as being amongst the most vocal and active when it comes to environmental behaviour and identify pro environmental behaviours such as recycling and reductions of car use as a product of pro-social behaviours and self-interest. They discuss the issue whereby pro-environmental behaviour is not always an indication of an individual’s attitudes towards the environment as these behaviours can be constrained by external factors such as economics, social influences and opportunity. This research paper thus aims to identify elements that can strengthen pro-environmental attitudes, to inform behavioural change and create behaviours that are more robust towards the influence of external factors. More specifically, the paper investigated the role of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in pro-environmentalism with the knowledge that EI has been previously associated with pro-social actions and ethical buying behaviours.

The research study utilised a sample of 406 Australian school students aged 12-17 years old. Participants were assessed based on their pro-environmental behaviour, environmental attitudes and Emotional Intelligence. In line with previous research findings, results showed that adolescents who strongly endorsed pro-environmentalism engaged in more pro-environmental behaviours. The results clarified the role of EI in this relationship whereby skills in understanding other’s emotions (linked to empathy and altruistic values) appeared as a driver of pro-environmental attitudes whereas, the ability to regulate and manage emotions (linked to more effective anticipation of positive outcomes) appeared to encourage pro-environmental behaviours.

The authors highlight these findings for their potential to positively influence environmental education programs and inform future study of pro-environmental behaviours. These findings also join a growing list of outcomes related to the development of EI competencies. These outcomes range from scholastic success, coping, resilience and wellbeing to pro-social behaviours/peer relations, leadership and sporting excellence.