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Social Structure and Social Psychological Bases of Environmental Concern

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Environment and Behavior, Volume 30, Number 4, p.450-471 (1998)



Efforts to explain environmental concern as a function of social structure have revealed some weak but reliable associations. Stronger associations have been found between environmental concern and social psychological variables including attitudes, beliefs, and worldviews. The authors used the 1993 General Social Survey to explore a conceptual framework that postulates four causal levels: social structural factors and early socialization experiences; general worldview and ideology about humanity and the environment; specific attitudes, beliefs, and cognitions about environmental issues; and environmentally relevant behavior. Each class of variable has explanatory power beyond that given by other classes of variables, with the social psychological variables generally adding more explanatory power than the structural variables. The patterns are different, however, for the five behavioral indicators. Efforts to explain the structural influences as indirect, operating through the social psychological variables, were mainly unsuccessful.