Intergenerational disenchantment? Environmental behaviors and motivations across generations in South Korea

Femida Handy*, Tally Katz-Gerro, Itay Greenspan, Yaara Vered

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the underlying motivations for environmental behaviors among two generations of South Koreans: parents (ages 42–61) and their children (ages 18–28). While previous research has documented intergenerational transmission (IGT) of environmental attitudes and behaviors, what is not known is whether individuals exhibit similar motivations for engaging in these behaviors. We posit that differences in motivations may exist because generations face different economic and social contexts at different ages; even though environmental behaviors may persist; each generation may frame differently why they engage in those behaviors. We develop this argument while relying on the empty-belly/full-stomach thesis. The distinction between the intergenerational transmission of behaviors and motivations provides insights on how best to target policies for behavioral change. Using survey data from a national sample of 517 parent-child dyads, we rely on dyad and cohort analysis to ask if generational differences exist in framing the motivations for environmental behaviors. To further explore how motivations are shaped, we study their association with external sources of influence including media, social networks, and parents’ influence. Our findings suggest that while there are similarities of environmental behaviors among parents and children, children were less likely to be driven by environmental motivations and more likely to name economic and habit and family pressure motivations. We term this an environmental disenchantment because environmental motivations are less likely to promote environmental behaviors across generations in South Korea.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation [grant number 2014080], partial support from the Kim Program in Korean Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and an invitation from KyungHee University that facilitated the pilot study in Seoul. We thank Omkar Katta for his valuable research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Motivations
  • Pro-environmental behaviors
  • South Korea


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