A new report by Nature Energy has evaluated energy education programs for children and the impact that they have on child and family behaviors toward saving energy.
The report, "Effects of a behaviour change intervention for Girl Scouts on child and parent energy-saving behaviours," makes use of a cluster-randomized controlled trial involving 30 Girl Scout troops from Northern California to determine the effectiveness of two social cognitive theory-based interventions that are focused on home-based and food-and-transportation energy-related behaviors of the Girl Scouts, as well as their families, through participation in the Girls Learning Environment and Energy (GLEE) program.
Of the 331 members of the 30 participating troops, 327 Girl Scouts within 318 families received parental consent allowing their participation in the study. One sibling was randomly selected from each family. After baseline measures were completed, troops were randomly selected to participate in one of the two interventions. All participants who returned a survey for at least one of the three measurement time points in the analysis were included.
Findings suggest that as a result of being randomly assigned to the residential energy intervention, the Girl Scouts and their families significantly increased their self-reported residential energy-saving behaviors, both immediately after the intervention as well as seven months later, when compared to control groups. In addition, those assigned to the food-and-transportation energy intervention showed a significant increase to their energy-saving behaviors in that category immediately following the intervention, but not after the follow-up.
The authors state that these findings show that theory-based, child-focused energy interventions do show an increase in energy-saving behaviors in both children and their families.
Intervention methods used with children include modeling, skill development, behavior rehearsal, behavior monitoring, and feedback meant to promote self-efficacy. In addition, tools were given to take home in order to help children transfer the learned skills to their homes and push for support from parent-assisted behaviors.
The authors say a number of variables were controlled for including time, dose, and attention.
They add that the findings implicate far-reaching positive impacts, as one in every two adult women in the United States have been a Girl Scout for at least four years at some point in their life. They say that due to this, putting GLEE and other interventions to use in the Girl Scouts as well as other youth-serving organizations could result in an increase in energy-saving behaviors in many families across the United States.
Trial findings are based on self-reported surveys pertaining to energy-related behaviors, which could include measurement errors they may either increase or decrease the effects. However, the authors say both interventions were purposely designed in an effort to target energy-saving behaviors and reduce any potential biases in reported behaviors.
The authors go on to say that "future research may include more in-depth and parallel measures for parents and children to explore parent–child congruence and mutual influence processes, such as family communication patterns and content."