Growing up in an emerging consumer society: Does advertising make Bulgarian kids materialistic?
Among children in Western European countries, where consumer culture is pervasive, seeing television advertising is linked with increased materialism and involvement in consumer culture. The question is whether these undesired effects of advertising also occur in other countries with a different history of consumer culture. For example, in Eastern European countries commercial advertising was prohibited for a long time under communist regime. A study in Journal of Children and Media investigates what advertising does to children in a former-Soviet country (Bulgaria). It appears that the unintended effects of advertising are largely the same for Bulgarian children as for children in Western countries.
- Due to Bulgaria’s communist history, commercial television advertising is a relatively new phenomenon in this country.
- Despite that, advertising does have the same undesired effects on children in Bulgaria as it has on children in Western countries: increased exposure to television advertising is linked with increased materialism and involvement in consumer culture.
- Strengthening advertising literacy can mitigate the adverse effects of television advertising, but only for children who do no watch commercial television that often.
273 children (mean age: 10, age range: 8-11, 51% girls)
Children completed a questionnaire that measured which television channels they watched and how often, how materialistic they were, how involved they were in consumer culture (for example ‘I want to make a lot of money when I grow up’, and ‘I like shopping and going to stores‘) and how satisfied they were with their lives. Also, questions were included that measured advertising literacy (the understanding of advertising’s commercial intent).
Facts and findings
- Bulgarian children who watched commercial television channels more often, and thus were exposed to more advertisements, were more materialistic and more involved in consumer culture.
- Bulgarian children’s level of materialism and consumer involvement was not related to their life satisfaction.
- Bulgarian children who rarely watched commercial television channels were less materialistic when they had a better understanding of advertising’s intent.
- However, when Bulgarian children watched commercial television channels often, they were more materialistic when they had a better understanding of advertising’s intent.