While many young people buy into consumer culture believing it will make them feel better about themselves and help them to make friends, often the reverse happens. A new research by psychologists has suggested that this pressure to be cool, look good and own the 'right stuff' is detrimental to many children and teenagers.
Robin Banerjee, professor of developmental psychology at University of Sussex in England, said, "Our study shows how consumer-culture values are tied up with images of social success in childhood."
Matthew Easterbrook, lecturer in psychology at University of Sussex said, "Our results suggest that children who have low levels of well-being are particularly likely to become orientated towards consumer culture, and thus enter into a negative downward spiral. Consumer culture may be perceived as a coping mechanism by vulnerable children, but it is one that is detrimental to their well-being."
For the study, researchers analyzed 1,000 children between ages eight and 14. They found that being disruptive, having 'cool stuff' and looking good was often seen as the best way to become more popular among peers. The results, however, suggested that valuing these behaviors actually has the opposite effect, with peer relations worsening over time for those kids turning to consumer-culture values.
Banerjee said, "Although friendly and helpful children were ultimately more popular over time, young people mistakenly predicted that the route to being liked was in having a reputation for disruptive behavior, having 'cool' stuff and looking good."
This study was presented at the annual conference British Psychological Society's Developmental and Social Psychology Section in Manchester.