Adolescents' Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: Analyzing the Opportunities and Constraints of Their Friendship Network Structure
In this paper, I profile the attitude, belief, and behavior of adolescents with regard to environmental issues via a nationwide survey to illustrate the extent to which our younger generation practices environmentalism. The opportunities and constraints of their friendship networks on disseminating the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) are further discussed. This discussion is based upon Simmel's sociation theory, the degree to which one's social interactions shape and reshape his/her values and actions, which results in opportunities and constraints for developing environmental education. The data collection is based on the nationwide in-school adolescent population in three age cohorts (first-year students of junior high school, high school, and college students, respectively) in 2015. The total sample size is 1,320, but the college respondens were too few to be included in the discussion here. By using social network analysis (SNA), I am able to place the following key network features of sociation: multi-dimensional friendship structures, eigenvector centrality, network constraint, network closeness, and susceptibility into the model. The findings show that adolescents had a low level of environmental engagement (only approximately five percent of our respondents displayed high environmental awareness, and even fewer had ever participated in environmental movements). Besides, the link between social and environmental engagement was of high network constraint and low eigenvector centrality, which indicates that environmental education in junior high must be highly peer-centered to spread. Moreover, popular high school students with higher levels of environmental engagement might have more influence among their peer networks, since they have stronger links to others and greater chances to help their peers become more sympathetic towards environmental problems.