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Information seeking about global climate change among parents and their adolescents: The role of risk perceptions and efficacy beliefs

Mead, E., Rimal, R., Roser-Renouf, C., Flora, J., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2012) Information seeking about global climate change among parents and their adolescents: The role of risk perceptions and efficacy beliefs. Atlantic Journal of Communication. 20:1, 31-52. DOI:10.1080/15456870.2012.637027

Global climate change is likely to have significant impacts on public health. Effective communication is critical to informing public decision making and behavior to mitigate climate change. An effective method of audience segmentation, the risk perception attitude (RPA) framework, has been previously tested with other health behaviors and classifies people into 4 groups on the basis of their perceptions of risk and beliefs about personal efficacy. The 4 groups—indifference (low risk, weak efficacy), proactive (low risk, strong efficacy), avoidance (high risk, weak efficacy), and responsive (high risk, strong efficacy)—are hypothesized to differ in their self-protective behaviors and in their motivations to seek information. In this article, we extend the RPA framework in two ways.

First, we use it at the household level to determine whether parental classifications into the 4 groups are associated with their teenage children's classification into the same 4 groups. Second, we predict adolescent information seeking behaviors on the basis of their and their parents' membership in the 4 RPA groups. Results (N = 523 parent–adolescent pairs) indicated that parental membership in the 4 RPA groups was significantly associated with children's membership in the same 4 groups. Furthermore, the RPA framework was a significant predictor of adolescent information seeking: Those in the responsive and avoidance groups sought more information on climate change than the indifference group. Family communication on global warming was positively associated with adolescents' information seeking. Implications for interventions are discussed.

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