Relational Ethics and Environmental Concern

Sydney Ray, Purdue University


The impact of climate change extends beyond physical ecological systems into the mental health field, with these changes significantly impacting social systems and individuals around the world. Recent environmental psychology research suggests that moral and value-based factors influence how individuals interact with and show concern for the environment as it changes. Contextual family therapy presents a unique lens for understanding environmental concern; intergenerational transmission of relational ethics—or trust, loyalty, and entitlement—reflects a similar moral basis for interaction and provides context of caring for posterity. This study used linear regression and moderation analyses to examine the relationship between relational ethics, both in the family of origin and in partner relationships, and environmental concern; age, gender, socioeconomic status, parenthood, and political ideology were included as moderating factors. Relational ethics in family of origin relationships did not have a significant effect, and moderators did not have an effect on this relationship. However, horizontal relational ethics significantly predicted environmental concern; age, parenthood, and political ideology significantly moderated this relationship. These results suggest that relational ethics in a partner relationship have a significant influence on environmental concern. Clinical implications for contextual family therapy, limits to the study, and future directions of research are discussed. Keywords: relational ethics, contextual therapy, environmental concern, climate change




Nalbone, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social research|Environmental Studies|Individual & family studies

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