Young people imitate their parents’ concern for the environment

Youth in Denmark and America will become more environmentally conscious upon seeing their parents’ respect for the environment in everyday life. But they will not achieve eco-friendly habits to the same extent as their parents until they are older.

2013.10.01 | Julia Rolsted Stacey

Researchers from Aarhus University have found that young people in both Denmark and California will become more environmentally friendly if they grow up in a family in which the environment has a high priority in daily life.

“What affects the youth are concrete daily actions at home, and this will help them gain a level of respect for the environment and give them good habits,” explains associate professor Alice Grønhøj from Aarhus University.

Parents are more conscious of the environment

Even though there is a correlation between parents’ and children's thoughts about the environment, it does not necessarily mean that youth are aware of the environment to the same extent as their parents. According to Alice Grønhøj, young people are in fact less conscious of the environment than their parents - both in Denmark and in California. She explains:

“Young people between the age of 16 and 18 are interested in many things. Being eco-friendly is merely one of them. It is no longer ‘hip’ to be environmentally conscious when you are young.”

“In the past, thinking about the environment was a way to stand out or separate yourself from your parents; but today, eco-friendliness is a natural part of society to some extent.”

Young people are self-centred

In their survey, the researchers have focused on young people’s values. The results confirm that young people aged 16-18  are generally more self-centred than their parents and have a greater need for self-assertion. Compared to their parents, young people have no need to show concern for the greater society.

“We must assume that young people’s values change as they grow older, get married and have children - as they build stronger identities of their own,” says Alice Grønhøj.

“Our research shows that as people grow older, they begin to think more about the well-being of others. Generally, adults and elderly tend to worry more about the people surrounding them and about the future in general. They have much greater concern for the coming generations. Contrary to this, young people need to find themselves before they can start to think about anything other than what is immediately present to them.

However, the research also indicates that children and youth who are brought up in a family with a high level of concern for the environment will learn to respect the environment much more than children who are not encouraged to think and act in a co-friendly manner in their everyday lives.


  • The survey was conducted as a questionnaire on the internet. The participants were young people aged 16-18 and their parents.
  • The survey was carried out in Denmark and California, USA.
  • The survey maps young people's habits and attitudes and compares them with their parents' habits and attitudes. Moreover, the group of young people also had to answer questions about how they perceive their parents' habits and attitudes.
  • There were 220 American participants and 224 Danish participants (110 parent/child pairs in the US and 112 parent/child pairs in Denmark).
  • In her research, Alice Grønhøj focuses on young people as consumers.
  • The research is carried out in cooperation with Professor John Thøgersen from Aarhus University.

Further information

Associate professor Alice Grønhøj, Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences, Department of Business Administration. Tel. +45 8716 5042,

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