Commentary

Adverse Effects of Materialism on Youth Lessened With an Attitude of Thankfulness and Gratitude

Adverse Effects of Materialism on Youth Lessened With an Attitude of Thankfulness and Gratitude

Researchers at Harris Interactive recently collaborated with several marketing professors to provide a more accurate portrait of materialistic youth by examining the role of thankfulness in offsetting the negative social effects of materialism. The results determined that increasing materialism among youth does not immediately translate into less generous behavior; rather, gratitude plays an important role in influencing their level of generosity.

The research shows that youth (ages 8 to 18) who are more likely to be materialistic are less likely to be generous. Those who are materialistic but not thankful or appreciative for the things they have are more likely to not display generosity.

Responses regarding "buying things" indicate:

  • 76% of tweens (ages 8 to 12) and 62% of teens (ages 13 to 18) say they really enjoy going shopping
  • 71% overall say they would be happier if they had more money to buy more things for themselves
  • 51% of tweens and 48% of teens say that when they grow up, they'll be happier if they have more money

Happiness is defined differently by teens and tweens:

Much of the teen focus is on technology, such as

  • CD's (67%)
  • their own cell phone (65%)
  • their own computer (63%)
  • money (74%)

Tweens are most likely to say

  • money (65%)
  • presents (63%)
  • having popular video/computer games (60%)
  • their own computer (57%)

Mom is still an important figure in the lives of both tweens and teens, as majorities (91% of tweens and 77% of teens) say that Mom makes them happy. Overall, Friends (85%), Grandma (69%), Dad (67%) and pets (58%) round out the top five of those people and pets that make youth happy.

Although youth seem focused on money and possessions, they also enjoy helping others and are appreciative of the things and people in their lives, says the report. They:

  • Like to help new kids at school (91% of tweens, 81% of teens)
  • Raise money for needy people (86% of tweens, 79% of teens)
  • Spend time helping others (83% of tweens, 81% of teens)
  • Share their favorite things with other people (81% of tweens, 75% of teens)
  • Do favors for friends or family even when they're busy (77% of tweens, 75% of teens).
  • Have a lot to be thankful for (Tweens:92% vs. Teens: 86%)
  • Can think of a lot of people who have helped them (81%)

Aric Rindfleisch, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, summarizes the findings by saying "... although parents may be able to do little to squelch materialistic messages, they may be able limit the adverse effects of materialism by cultivating a sense of thankfulness and gratitude in their children."

Read the complete summary and see detailed charts and data here.



Correction: In yesterday's brief Traditional Media Advertising Gain Small in 2007, the proper heading was inadvertently left out of the final chart entitled 2007 Projections By Medium (Ranked By Growth Rate). The corrected brief can be seen here.

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