COVID-19 protective behavior. When science interest and knowledge matterCOVID-19 protective behavior.

Jérémy Castéra, Magali Coupaud, Claire Coiffard Marre, Corine Jegou, Hélène Cheneval-Armand, Alice Delserieys Pedregosa


Aim: This paper explores the different predictors of protective behavior of French secondary school students during the first COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, a model of relationships has been drawn between the perceived knowledge, perceived severity, protective behavior, and interest in science.
Methods: A questionnaire including these four dimensions was used. We examine and confirm the factor structure, based on a sample of 691 high school students. Based on factor analyses and structural equation modelling, we have identified several major results predicting protective behavior.
Results: First, the protective behavior is composed of two clearly distinguishable dimensions that should be analyzed separately: preventive and avoidance behaviors. Second, and as expected, perceived severity, perceived knowledge, interest in science, and age of respondents can partly and unequally predict secondary school students’ preventive and avoidance behaviors. However, having relatives infected with COVID-19 does not impact any dimension of the model.
Discussion: For future research, we suggest considering these behavioral subdimensions (preventive and avoidance), especially when considering school student samples. Our paper corroborates other studies advocating that developing science literacy and interest contribute to decision-making skills and protective behavior.
Conclusions: This study makes clearer the protective behavior components and predictors. We particularly emphasize the significance of incorporating scientific knowledge into educational programs to enhance students’ understanding of and response to pandemics. Teachers should pay particular attention to late adolescent students regarding the importance of avoidance behavior.
Keywords: COVID-19, protective behavior, secondary school students, interest in science
Conflicts of interest: None declared.
Statement on funding: None declared.
Acknowledgments: We would like to acknowledge Vincent Valéry, Délégué Académique à la Formation et à l’Innovation Pédagogique, for his agreement and help with the questionnaire dissemination.

DOI: 10.61034/JGPOH-2024-9