Materialism, advertising and low satisfaction in children

Materialism, advertising and low satisfaction in children

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The authors of this article recall that, in the case of adults, materialism and sadness often go together. Various previous works pointed out that the same thing happened with children, although without delving into the causes of the phenomenon.

"Children who are less satisfied with their lives become more materialistic over time, but only when they are frequently exposed to advertisements," said study lead author Suzanna Opree. "Advertising seems to teach children that possessions are a way to increase happiness," he added.

What exactly is materialism?

The study describes it as "having a concern for possessions and believing that products bring happiness and success." In the survey, children responded to the materialism measures (for example, they did a self-rating on how much they like other children based on their possessions). The children also rated how satisfied they were with their lives, parents, friends, schools, and with themselves and their group. Advertising exposure was measured based on how often children watched 9 commercial-filled television shows, including "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Skating with Celebrities," a Dutch family show. Children in general are bombarded with a large number of advertisements, the researchers said.

“Estimates of the number of television advertisements children are exposed to annually vary from 10,000 in Britain (from a 2007 study) to 40,000 in the US (from a 2001 study ), ”Opree said. "It is not a case of dissatisfied children watching more television, unhappy children are not more exposed to advertising than happy children," said Opree. "They just seem to be more susceptible to its effects."

Marta Flaum, a child psychologist in Chappaqua, New York, who is familiar with the study, said:

"The authors make the excellent suggestion [that parents teach their] children to be intelligent and critical consumers." "When [the children] watch TV, watch the commercials with them and talk about it later," she added. Ask them to act: ‘You are the advertising executive. How would you criticize this ad? What do you think they are trying to get you to do? Do you think it is effective? "

In another survey conducted by the researchers (The Unintended Effects of Television Advertising), among parents and children, the objective was to investigate how television advertising is related to children's purchase requests, the materialism, disappointment, dissatisfaction with life and family conflicts. In a first step, a conceptual model based on existing hypotheses was developed, and in a second step, this model was tested with a sample of 360 dyads of parents and children (between 8 and 12 years of age). Using structural equation models, the results show that advertising is positively and directly related to children's purchase requests and materialism. It is also positively related, albeit indirectly (mediated by advertising-induced purchase requests), to family conflicts, disappointment and discontent with life. Parent-child consumer communication and parent mediation and advertising are important moderators of the effects of advertising on children's purchase requests and materialism.


Research in adults suggests that materialism and life satisfaction influence each other negatively, causing a downward spiral. So far, cross-sectional research among children has indicated that materialistic children are less happy, but causality remains uncertain. This study adds to the literature by investigating the longitudinal relationship between materialism and life satisfaction. It was also investigated whether their relationship depends on the level of exposure of children to advertisements.


A sample of 466 children (aged between 8 and 11 years, 55% of which were girls) participated in a 2-stage online survey with an interval of 1 year (in October 2006 and October 2007). The children were asked questions about material possessions, satisfaction with life, and publicity. A structural equation model was used to study the relationship between these variables.


In the children in the sample, no effects of materialism were observed on life satisfaction. However, satisfaction with life did have a negative effect on materialism. Exposure to advertising has facilitated this effect: a life satisfaction effect was only found in materialism, in children who were frequently exposed to advertising.


In children between the ages of 8 and 11, satisfaction with life leads to diminished materialism, not the other way around. However, this effect is only valid for children who are frequently exposed to television advertising. It is possible that the material values ​​portrayed in advertising teach children that material possessions are a way of coping with dissatisfaction with life (or diminished satisfaction, with life). It is important to reduce this effect, because research among adults suggests that materialistic children may become less happy throughout their lives. Various intervention strategies are discussed.

The authors offer three strategies to prevent unhappiness and dissatisfaction related to materialism. First, they recommend eliminating or reducing the child's exposure to (television) advertising. Second, it is recommended to teach children to deal with advertising critically and instructing them on the persuasiveness of advertising. Finally, to counteract the influence of advertising, educate children about other sources of happiness in life such as love, friendship, and play, while downplaying the role of possessions.

"The key is to do it very early, when children are flexible and open to new activities, hobbies and experiences," Flaum said. "When a child is 8 or 10 years old, it may be too late to expect that they suddenly want to turn off. the TV, get off the couch and put on your slippers ”. The topics "materialism" and "spoiled children" are frequent topics of discussion in Westchester County, New York, where she practices, Flaum said.

“The time to deal with this is when they are young children, to instill in them the habit of helping, for example, of contributing to the maintenance of the home,” Flaum said.

“Young children love to help, they don't know that it can be work. For them, that moment is just an opportunity to spend time with their parents. And it seems to me that when children have the privilege and experience of working to earn something, they build a sense of self-confidence and mastery. " "Early intervention could prevent a cycle of unhappiness and materialism in adulthood," Opree said. "Previous studies among adults indicate not only that people with lower life satisfaction become increasingly materialistic, but also that more materialistic people feel less satisfied with their lives," Opree said. " Therefore, although we did not find any short-term effect after one year, it is likely that children's materialism leads to decreasing satisfaction later in life.


Video: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression. Johann Hari. RSA Replay (June 2022).


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  2. Lasse

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  3. Erikas

    I absolutely disagree

  4. Arashijinn

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  5. Ailein

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  6. Kigakus

    My seat is on the left and I have to sit there ... Hey, speaker, would you calm down and really think with your head :)

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