The household as a site of environmental education: Parenting strategies and intergenerational environmental ethics

Year: 2004

Author: Payne, Phillip

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The international discourse of environmental education is replete with criticisms of how school/curriculum based efforts have not lived up to the expectation of sustainability. Few studies have considered the constraining or enabling influences of the home, no matter how good the educational intervention might be.

For researchers to describe and explain how families function 'privately' in their own homes in relation to controversial issues such as the environment, health, politics, sex, drugs and so on is fraught with problems, least of all gaining ethical approval and/or the politics of conducting such research.

Ideally, family/household ethnographies should be used to gain rich data about parent-child actions, inactions, interactions and relations in addition to the subtleties of a family's norms, domestic milieu and resources, and socio-cultural background. Even self-reporting by parents and their children through diaries and journals of respective family members is problematic.

Within the acknowledged limitations of conventional in-depth interviews and questionnaires, this paper reports on how the researcher used a variety of data collection tools to generate 'family narratives' about household environmental behaviours and the development of intergenerational environmental ethics.