Dang kids always want more stuff if they aren't happy

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Paying your sister a compliment at Christmas might make her forget she wants an iPod touch, according to a recent study.

Findings from the University of Minnesota study “Growing up in a Material World: Age Differences in Materialism in Children and Adolescents” found a higher level of materialism when participants developed low self-esteem in their mid-teens.

Deborah John, professor of marketing at Minnesota and Lan Nguyen Chaplin, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Illinois, studied 150 youth between the ages of eight and 18.

Materialism was found to increase from middle childhood to early adolescence, whereas self-esteem decreased during the same years. By late adolescence, an increased self-esteem correlated with a decreased material drive.

“As far as I know, this is one of the first studies to look at a link between materialism and self-esteem,” Kali Trzesniewski, assistant professor of psychology at Western, said.

“The way advertising works is it suggests the products will make you happy, so it is not a surprise that children and adults [who are] low in self-esteem would be more susceptible to ads and want more products to try to make them happy,” Trzesniewski explained.

Catherine Pierce, project manager at the Media Awareness Network " a non-profit media watchdog, said advertisers attempt to reduce self-esteem in consumers to market their products.

“It’s common practice in the marketing field to make you feel you have something less than somebody else ... It’s the marketing tactics themselves that are problematic.”

Rob Ritchie, an assistant professor at Richard Ivey School of Business, said materialism is not necessarily the end goal of advertising " although it may be a consequence of it.

“Either [advertising] lets you know there’s something better out there … or alternatively, [advertising asks], did you know you’re not as well off as you thought you were?”

First-year health science student Kendra Vander Wal agreed. She said ads make youth think they will be “cool” if they have the product advertised.

Kristen Quigley, a third-year management and organization studies student, agreed advertisements affect children’s level of materialism more than adults.

“When you’re a kid, all you think about is toys,” Quigley said.

First-year social science student Sameer Pardhan said he is less influenced by advertising now than he was as a child.

“I’ve been educated about the impact of media,” he added.

"With files from Lauren Pelley

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