A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says that there may be an actual causal relationship between materialism and low self-esteem in teenagers. The study’s authors, Lan Nguyen Chaplin from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Deborah Roedder John of the University of Minnesota, “studied children of different age groups and found that, generally, self-esteem increases from middle childhood (8-9 years) to early adolescence (12-13 years), but then declines during adolescence until the end of high school (16-18 years). This mirrors patterns in materialism, which increases in early adolescence but decreases in late adolescence during the transition into young adulthood,” says a press release about the study.
They also found that even a small boost in self esteem made materialism drop. “By the time children reach early adolescence, and experience a decline in self-esteem, the stage is set for the use of material possessions as a coping strategy for feelings of low self-worth.”
“Our results indicate that simple actions to raise self-esteem among young consumers can have a dramatic impact on expressions of materialism,” Chaplin and John write. “By priming high self-esteem, we reversed the large drop in self-esteem experienced by early adolescents, thereby reducing the steep rise in materialism among this group.”
Although this study applies only to teenagers, it leads us to suspect that expensive handbags really are the mark of insecurity (rather than wealth) that we always thought they were. Unless you really are super rich and fabulous, give yourself a hug and buy a cheaper purse. We love you for you.
In Children And Adolescents, Low Self-esteem Increases Materialism [Science Daily via Digg]