How Parents Stimulate Materialism in Children
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that the use of goods in parenting influences children’s material values later in life. The more material rewards (a toy for a positive accomplishment in school) or punishments (having a game console taken away as a punishment for bad behavior) children receive during childhood, the more likely they are to believe that products are important for self-expression and an indicator of success once they enter adulthood.
- Children whose parents use material stuff as a reward or punishment in parenting (material parenting), are more likely to become materialistic once they enter adulthood.
- Warm and nurturing parents are more likely to reward their children with material stuff than more distant parents.
- Parental rejection might also influence children’s materialism later in life, by increased feelings of insecurity.
- Parents should be aware that their parenting style may affect their children’s material values later in life.
- This is important, because being materialistic is often linked to undesirable side effects, such as compulsive purchasing behavior, gambling, financial problems, and decreased life stisfaction.
How does a material parenting style influence children’s material values later in life?
Study 1: 261 adults between the ages of 20 and 40 (48% were men; 66% were married or living in a partnership sharing financial responsibilities; median annual household income was in the $55,000 to $69,999 category)
Study 2: 280 adults between the ages of 20 and 40 (46% were men; 48% were married or living in a partnership sharing financial responsibilities; median annual household income was in the $40,000 to $45,999 category)
Study 1: The respondents were recruited through an online consumer panel company. At the start of the online survey, respondents were asked about the parenting style of their parents. Respondents were also asked whether they received material rewards during childhood (for example, receiving a gift for a positive accomplishment in school) or material punishments, (for example, having a toy taken away as a consequence for bad behavior). Finally, respondents indicated whether they associate ownership of desirable goods with happiness or success, in order to asses their degree of materialism.
Study 2: The respondents were registered Mechanical Turk (Amazon’s crowdsourcing Internet marketplace) workers, who agreed to complete an online survey. The respondents were asked the same questions as the respondents in study 1, but with one additional question. They were also asked to identify a product they hoped to have in the near future, and also whether this product would make them feel more self-confident, and more respected and attractive to others (use of products for self-expression).
Facts and findings
- A material parenting style is associated with adult materialism: respondents who received material rewards as a child, were more likely to associate ownership of desirable goods with accomplishment and success as an adult.
- Respondents with warm and nurturing parents, received more material rewards during childhood than those with more distant parents.
- Respondents who were often rejected as a child, were more likely to be insecure when they were younger, which in turn also led to materialism in adulthood (more likely to associate ownership of desirable goods with both success and happiness).
- Interesting fact: Materialistic feelings of the respondents closely resembled that of their parents during their own childhood. For example, if parents associated ownership of desirable goods with happiness, their children are also likely to feel this way during their lives.
- Respondents who received material punishments during childhood, were also more likely to associate ownership of desirable goods with accomplishment and success as an adult.
- Respondents who received material rewards as a child, more often believed that products are important for self-expression than those who did not receive material rewards.