Research Summary

Development and validation of Children’s Responsible Environmental Behavior Scale

New Scale Developed to Measure Children’s Behavior

Environmental Education Research
2012

Efforts to establish a reliable scale for environmentally responsible behavior (ERB) have been ongoing for decades. Many researchers, practitioners, and policy makers agree that ERB is one of the key outcomes of environmental education. Participation in ERB has been linked to personality, cognitive, demographic, and external factors, making this a complicated area to understand. Although research on ERB has increased since the 1990s, we still know relatively little about the motivations for and barriers to ERB in children. According to this paper’s authors, the Children’s Environmental Attitude and Knowledge Scale (CHEAKS) is “one of the few measures of ERB for elementary students apparent in the literature.” This scale is limited, however, in the types of action that it considers and the cultural context in which it can be applied. Since CHEAKS was developed in the United States, it may not be applicable in other counties. This study intended to introduce a new scale, Children’s Responsible Environmental Behavior Scale (CREBS), developed for elementary school students in Turkey.

Through a review of the literature, the authors found that there are five major categories of ERB: eco-management, consumer/economic action, persuasion, political action, and legal action. For CREBS, legal action was omitted because it was not deemed appropriate or reasonable for the age group targeted by the study. Following this review, the researchers asked a group of 229 elementary school students (fourth and fifth graders) to generate an open-ended list of behaviors in each of these dimensions that they had done in the last two years or that they planned to do. The most common responses were used to generate the item pool for the main study. Education and curriculum specialists validated this item pool was to verify the items’ age-appropriateness, comprehension, and clarity. The researchers pilot-tested the scale with a larger group of students. The final study included responses from 2,412 fifth-grade students in Turkey.

The authors found four statistically reliable factors in the data: (1) political action, (2) physical action/eco-management, (3) consumer and economic action, and (4) individual and public persuasion, confirming the results of prior studies. Thus this study contributes a validated tool for studying ERB in elementary-aged children. Although the study was done in Turkey, the authors assert that “CREBS might be used and slightly adapted for use in the countries with similar culture and educational systems.”

Overall, CREBS offers a way of studying the “typical” behaviors of school-aged children in a different cultural context than served by CHEAKS. Further research is needed to determine whether this scale can be “used in a valid way with populations other than fourth and fifth graders in Turkey.” The article provides a roadmap, however, for those interested in developing similar scales for other cultural and demographic populations.

The Bottom Line

Culturally relevant approaches to studying environmental behavior are critical to our understanding of human relationships with the planet and to how we approach environmental education. Although CREBS may only be directly applicable to a specific population, the methods used by the authors to develop and validate this scale can be repeated in a variety of cultural and social contexts. This will allow environmental researchers and practitioners to build more responsive and appropriate ways of promoting responsible environmental behavior.