Environmental Habitus: The Intergenerational Transmission of Environmental Behaviors in Cross-National Comparison

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Tally KATZ-GERRO, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Itay GREENSPAN, Hebrew University, Israel
Femida HANDY, University of Pennsylvania, USA
The environmental agenda has inspired discussions on the social mechanisms through which people acquire a pro-environmental behavior. We propose a conceptual framework that is an alternative to the current emphasis on demographic and attitudinal characteristics as correlates of environmental behaviors. We propose a shift of focus to the family unit, to examine the importance of intergenerational transmission of dispositions that are favorable to pro-environmental behavior

Our main theoretical heuristic is environmental habitus. It argues that a pro-environmental disposition runs in the family; if one’s family holds values and behavioral dispositions of frugality, modesty, or conservation, it will have consequences for everyday pro-environmental behavior. Adoption of environmental behaviors does not take place only because people follow the imperatives of the environmental movement or government, or because they hold an environmental ideology, but it also lies in the mundane, daily practices and rituals of a family.

We examine environmental habitus comparatively, asking if it takes different forms in three different national contexts – Israel, the United States, and South Korea. These countries are characterized by different cultural and economic contexts, different framings of environmental issues, and different economic and historical trajectories. Our analysis is based on two original data sources: group interviews of family triads (grandparents, parents, children), and nationally-representative surveys of family dyads (parents and children).

This presentation discusses preliminary findings on the areas in which environmental concern is manifested (food, product reuse, healthy lifestyle, energy saving); habitus transmission mechanisms (idioms, mimicking nonverbal behavior, family routines, verbal discussions, limiting access); and motivation mechanisms (ideology, convenience, cost, citizenship, respect for family, routine practices). These findings shed light on the comparative differences and similarities in environmental habitus within families and across nations, and its impact on pro-environmental behaviors and motivations.