Lower life satisfaction related to materialism in children frequently exposed to advertising

Suzanna J. Opree*, Moniek Buijzen, Patti M. Valkenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Research among adults suggests that materialism and life satisfaction negatively influence each other, causing a downward spiral. So far, cross-sectional research among children has indicated that materialistic children are less happy, but causality remains uncertain. This study adds to the literature by investigating the longitudinal relation between materialism and life satisfaction. We also investigated whether their relation depended on children's level of exposure to advertising. METHODS: A sample of 466 children (aged 8-11; 55% girls) participated in a 2-wave online survey with a 1-year interval. We asked children questions about material possessions, life satisfaction, and advertising. We used structural equation modeling to study the relationship between these variables. RESULTS: For the children in our sample, no effect of materialism on life satisfaction was observed. However, life satisfaction did have a negative effect on materialism. Exposure to advertising facilitated this effect: We only found an effect of life satisfaction on materialism for children who were frequently exposed to advertising. CONCLUSIONS: Among 8- to 11-year-old children, life satisfaction leads to decreased materialism and not the other way around. However, this effect only holds for children who are frequently exposed to television advertising. It is plausible that the material values portrayed in advertising teach children that material possessions are a way to cope with decreased life satisfaction. It is important to reduce this effect, because findings among adults suggest that materialistic children may become less happy later in life. Various intervention strategies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e486-e491
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


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