Childhood roots of being green: Environmental morality and behavior in children and adults
How do environmental morality and sustainable behavior emerge in childhood? We examined individuals’ moral judgments of environmental actions and their observed sustainable behavior in an environmental trade-off task in a sample of N = 555 young adults (Study 1) and N = 45 children ages 3–10 (Study 2). We show that both children and adults viewed pro-environmental behavior positively and environmental harm negatively—even if the action was sanctioned by an authority figure; however, both children’s and adults’ judgments of actions impacting other people were stronger than judgments of actions impacting the environment. Among children, negative judgments of environmental harm strengthened with age, as did their preference to befriend a pro-environmental character. Sustainable behavior was associated with judgments of environmental harm among adults, but with judgments of pro-environmental actions among children. These findings point to both developmental continuity and change in environmental morality and behavior.