Reference : Understanding primary-school, high-school and university students sustainable behavio...
Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Education & instruction
Understanding primary-school, high-school and university students sustainable behaviours: An approach based on the theory of planned behaviour
De Leeuw, Astrid mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) >]
University of Luxembourg, ​​Luxembourg
Docteur en Psychologie
Houssemand, Claude mailto
Ferring, Dieter mailto
Valois, Pierre
Wittmann, Werner
Bamberg, Sebastian
[en] Sustainable Development ; Theory of Planned Behaivour ; Students
[en] Developing a more thorough understanding of what motivates young people to adopt sustainable behaviours is an important area of concern that has practical implications for creating sound educational interventions and ensuring a sustainable future. The overall purpose of this thesis was to assess and understand primary- and high-school students’ environmentally sustainable behaviours in order to inform educational interventions. Moreover, it aimed at analysing one particular socially sustainable behavioural intention among university students, notably their intention to buy fair trade products. The theory of planned behaviour (TPB) was used as the basic theoretical framework to examine these behaviours. We first conducted a pilot study for each behaviour, with the aim to identify salient beliefs of the target populations with regard to the behaviour investigated. Open-ended questionnaires were administered to a sample of 116 primary-school students, 92 high-school students, and 17 voluntary participants at the university level. A content analysis of the participants’ responses allowed the determination of the most salient beliefs, which were used as the basis for the quantitative measures of beliefs in the main studies. The first and second main studies investigated the beliefs of 812 primary-school students and 602 high-school students regarding the adoption of pro-environmental behaviours using a longitudinal approach. The gist of our results seems to be that for both age groups, educational interventions should target control beliefs especially. For instance, students insist on tools that would facilitate pro-environmental behaviours (e.g., having duplex printers or recycling bins at school and at home). However, behavioural and normative beliefs should not be neglected. The last study examined mainly differences in male and female university students’ intentions to consume fair trade products. The results indicate that for women, more emphasis should be placed on perceived behavioural control (e.g., factors that facilitate the
purchase of fair trade products), while for men, more emphasis should be placed on attitudes towards buying fair trade products (i.e., the advantages of adopting this behaviour).
Our results confirm the usefulness of the TPB as a framework for understanding young people’s sustainable intentions and behaviours, with perceived control and attitudes having considerable impacts on sustainable intentions and perceived social pressure having a rather low weight. In addition, perceived control and intentions contributed significantly to the explained variance in primary- and high-school students’ eco-friendly behaviours. This thesis makes a number of important contributions to the literature. From a practical point of view, primary- and high-school students are important populations because sustainability-related habits might be established early in life. Moreover, in their roles as potentially important future decision makers in our society (e.g., future company leaders, politicians, global citizens), university students should be sensitized to the unequal power relationships often involved in conventional trading. Offering fair trade products and encouraging their consumption should be considered a small, but important, step in universities’ duty to create awareness. Despite the positive input for interventions inspired by this thesis, some limitations have to be considered, for instance, our reliance on self-report questionnaires and the possibility that participants may have overestimated the extent to which they perform environmentally and socially desirable behaviours related to sustainability. Last, further research is needed to test the effectiveness of interventions based on the present results.
University of Luxembourg
University of Luxembourg - UL
Researchers ; Professionals ; Students ; General public ; Others

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