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Easy for Parents to Unwittingly Encourage Materialism

Easy for Parents to Unwittingly Encourage Materialism

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, children who receive more material rewards from their parents grow up to be more materialistic as adults.

“Using material possessions to express love or reward children for their achievements can backfire. Loving and supportive parents can unintentionally foster materialism in their children despite their best efforts to steer them away from relying on material possessions to find happiness or to judge others,” write the authors, Drs. Marsha L. Richins (University of Missouri) and Lan Nguyen Chaplin (University of Illinois at Chicago).

The authors surveyed 701 adults to measure the long-term impact of material parenting.

Study participants described their current life situation and values, and also reported on a variety of childhood circumstances, their relationship with their parents, and the rewards and punishments they received during three critical ages of childhood (at grades three, seven, and 10).

Adults who had received more material rewards and punishments as children were more likely than others to use possessions to define and express who they are.

Researchers believe parents should be cautious about using material goods to express their love and reward their children for good behavior.

An overemphasis on material possessions during childhood can have long-lasting effects. Adults who received many material rewards as children are likely to continue rewarding themselves with material goods and defining themselves through their possessions.

Parents don’t want their children to use possessions to define their self-worth or judge others, yet loving and supportive parents may use material goods to express their love, say the authors.

Unfortunately, this may encourage their children to be more likely than others to admire people with expensive possessions and judge success by the kinds of things people own.

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals/EurekAlert

Easy for Parents to Unwittingly Encourage Materialism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Easy for Parents to Unwittingly Encourage Materialism. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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