What Kids Learn In School Can Sway Their Parents’ Beliefs

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“Children are our most valuable resource.” — Herbert Hoover Kids are the future. And, perhaps, even more than we thought! A new study, published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, discovered that children can have a huge impact on influencing and changing their parents’ opinions.

Danielle Lawson, who studies climate change communication at North Carolina State University and is also the study’s lead author, wanted to find out just how big of an influence children can have on their parents. The study included 238 middle school students and 292 parents located in coastal North Carolina, who were surveyed over a two year period.

Based on a 16 point scale, ranging from “not concerned at all” to “extremely concerned,” participants were analyzed on how their concern toward global warming shifted. They were divided into two groups; the first was given a hands on climate curriculum while the other group was not.

The results are quite fascinating. Among the group who were given the climate change curriculum, concern jumped by an average of 4.29 points in comparison to the those whose children were not given the curriculum. For conservative parents, the effect was even more substantial, and fathers showed a larger increase on average than mothers did. Even more interesting, is that daughters had a greater influence over parents' beliefs than sons (parents of daughters aren’t shocked at all!).

“The relationship between a parent and child, there's a different level of trust there ... than there would be between just say a climate communicator talking to an adult on the street,” says Lawson.

The children who were part of the climate curriculum also showed an increase of 2.05 points upon completion. For both the parents and children who participated, the results reflect immediate change in concern. Further testing will be required to discover how long the change lasts, and its impact on actions.

“The impact that I hope [the study] has is that people realize that this style of communication, this intergenerational learning, can provide this dual benefit of preparing kids for the future—because they are going to deal with the brunt of climate changes impacts—as well as continuing to empower the efforts that [children are] already making,” Lawson said.

We know the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, this study proves otherwise. As we encourage our youth to be open minded, and to consider different ideas and perspectives, parents will likely be following in their children's persuasive footsteps.

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