How Materialistic Is Your Teen?

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Materialistic children are often less generous and more financially irresponsible than their peers. However, there are ways you can avoid having materialistic children, according to recent research. Giving a child the finer things in life doesn't necessarily make them materialistic. You can give your child everything but still raise a thoughtful, well-rounded kid.

Materialistic Children Have Less Supportive Parents

In a study of tweens and teens, parents who were emotionally unsupportive had more materialistic children than supportive parents. By support, we're talking about the ability for the parent to talk to, encourage, and be there for their child in good and bad times. Self-esteem is the key to understanding this finding.

Supportive parenting increases adolescents' self-esteem. The higher a child's self-esteem, the less likely they are to look to items to bring them happiness and a sense of worth; they get their self-worth from relationships, instead.

You can teach them the value of relationships by paying them with your time, energy, and interests. This will help them see their worth as a person. And even if you do buy some things for them along the way, maintaining your relationship will lead to higher self-esteem, which often leads to lower materialism.

Materialistic Children Have Less Supportive Friends

Similar to the findings of parents, the support of peers is also important for counteracting materialism. In the study, kids with supportive friends had higher self-esteem and, in turn, fewer materialistic beliefs. Supportive friends are those who are understanding, who help out in times of need, and who do not get angry or upset for no reason. Supportive friends also avoid relational aggression and subtle bullying. Encouraging your child to find and maintain these types of friendships may help your child think less materialistically.

Materialistic Children Often Have Materialistic Parents

Your own behavior also affects how much goods and money matter to your child. Children learn by watching, so if they see you valuing money as a source of happiness, they are likely to do the same.

In addition, the researchers discovered that the more materialistic a parent was, the lower their child's self-esteem.

Because low self-esteem is linked to higher materialism, it follows that materialistic parents had materialistic children.

Materialistic Children Also Have Materialistic Friends

Similarly, the attitudes and behaviors of peers affect materialistic beliefs. The researchers found that adolescents with materialistic friends had lower self-esteem and, in turn, higher materialism themselves. Encouraging your child to find supportive friends who don't put a high value on money and things may, therefore, help your tween avoid being consumed by consumption.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chaplin LN, John DR, Rindfleisch A, Froh JJ. The impact of gratitude on adolescent materialism and generosity. J Pos Psychol. 2019;14(4):502-11. doi:10.1080/17439760.2018.1497688

  2. Chaplin LN, John DR. Interpersonal influences on adolescent materialism: A new look at the role of parents and peers. J Consum Behav. 2010;20:176-184. doi:10.1016/J.JCPS.2010.02.002

  3. Richins ML, Chaplin LN. Material parenting: How the use of goods in parenting fosters materialism in the next generation. J Consum Res. 2015;41(6):1333-57. doi:10.1086/680087

Additional Reading

By Rebecca Fraser-Thill
Rebecca Fraser-Thill holds a Master's Degree in developmental psychology and writes about child development and tween parenting.