The Effects of Advertising on Children’s Materialistic Orientations

Topics: Longitudinal study, Marketing, Advertising Pages: 26 (7852 words) Published: January 20, 2013
Running head: ADVERTISING AND CHILDREN’S MATERIALISTIC ORIENTATIONS  1 

The Effects of Advertising on Children’s Materialistic Orientations: A Longitudinal Study

ADVERTISING AND CHILDREN’S MATERIALISTIC ORIENTATIONS
 

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Abstract Previous studies have suggested that advertising exposure affects materialistic orientations among youth. However, this causal effect has not been investigated among 8- to 11-year olds, who are in the midst of consumer development. Furthermore, the mechanisms underlying this relation have not been studied. In order to fill these lacunae, this study focused on the longitudinal relation between children’s advertising exposure and materialism. We investigated two possible mediators: advertised product desire and perceived reality of advertising. A sample of 466 Dutch children (ages 8 – 11) was surveyed twice within a 12month interval. Analyses showed that advertising exposure had a positive causal effect on materialism. This effect was fully mediated by children’s increased desire for advertised products and not by perceived reality. Keywords: children, advertising, materialism, product desire, perceived reality

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The Effects of Advertising on Children’s Materialistic Orientations: A Longitudinal Study Since the 1960s audiences have had increasingly negative views of television advertising (Johnson & Young, 2003). The issue of advertising towards children has been an especially sensitive subject. Not only do many parents, consumer organizations and public policy officers consider this type of advertising to be unethical, but they are also concerned about undesired side-effects (Kunkel et al., 2004; Moore, 2004; Young, 2003). One of the main societal concerns regarding the harmful effects of children’s advertising is that advertising might stimulate materialistic orientations in children (Schor, 2005; Strasburger, 2001). Materialism in children is a cause for worry because it is considered a socially undesirable character trait that is associated with negative outcomes on both the individual and societal level (Roberts & Clement, 2007). Scholars have used numerous definitions for materialism, but Belk’s (1984, p. 291) is one of the most frequently quoted: “Materialism reflects the importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions. At the highest levels of materialism, such possessions assume a central place in a person’s life and are believed to provide the greatest sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in life”. At the individual level materialism is associated with several unwanted character traits (e.g., self-centeredness, possessiveness, disdain) and lower psychological well-being (Belk, 1985; Fournier & Richins, 1991; Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, & Sheldon, 2004). Materialism may also affect society as a whole, because materialists show less concern for and involvement in social issues, including social security and environmentalism (Roberts & Clement, 2007). As many as nine out of ten parents believe that children’s exposure to advertising makes them materialistic (Smith & Atkin, 2003). However, we do not know whether this assumption is accurate. Except for two studies on adolescents (i.e., Greenberg & Brand,

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1993; Moschis & Moore, 1982) and one on preschoolers (Goldberg & Gorn, 1978), previous work among youth has predominantly been cross-sectional in nature. Therefore, no decisive conclusions on the causality between children’s advertising exposure and materialism can be drawn (Buijzen & Valkenburg, 2003a). Although preceding work shows that children’s advertising exposure and materialism are related, it does not answer the question whether children’s advertising exposure leads to materialism or vice versa. In this study, we aim to test the general assumption that advertising exposure affects materialistic orientations. Specifically, we...
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