A Household Is Not a Person: Consistency of Pro-Environmental Behavior in Adult Couples and the Accuracy of Proxy-Reports
Seebauer S., Fleiß J., Schweighart M.
Environment and Behavior 49(6), 603-637, 2017
Studies on environmental behavior commonly assume single respondents to represent their entire household or employ proxy-reporting, where participants answer for other household members. It is contested whether these practices yield valid results. Therefore, we interviewed 84 couples, wherein both household members provided self- and proxy-reports for their partner. For use of electrical household appliances, consumption of hot water, space heating, everyday mobility, and environmental values, many variables fail to achieve criteria for validity. Consistency (agreement between self-reports of household members) is higher if behaviors are undertaken jointly or negotiated between partners. Accuracy (agreement of proxy-reports with corresponding self-reports) is higher for routine behaviors and for behaviors easily observable by the partner. Overall, indices perform better than items on single behaviors. We caution against employing individual responses in place of the entire household. Interventions for energy conservation should approach the specific person undertaking the target behavior.
Keywords: household energy consumption, proxy-reporting, intra-household interaction, pro-environmental behavior, pro-environmental values