The pressure to be cool, look good and own the ‘right stuff’ is detrimental to many children and teenagers, psychologists, including one of Indian-origin, have found.
The study showed that, 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.
“Our study shows how consumer-culture values are tied up with images of social success in childhood,” said Robin Banerjee, Professor of Developmental Psychology at University of Sussex in England.
“Our results suggest that children who have low levels of well-being are particularly likely to become oriented towards consumer culture, and thus enter into a negative downward spiral,” Matthew Easterbrook, Lecturer in Psychology at University of Sussex said.
“Consumer culture may be perceived as a coping mechanism by vulnerable children, but it is one that is detrimental to their well-being,” Easterbrook noted.
In this three-year study of 1,000 children between ages eight and 14, the researchers 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, showed that valuing these behaviours actually has the opposite effect, with peer relations worsening over time for those kids turning to consumer-culture values.
“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 behaviour, having ‘cool’ stuff and looking good,” Banerjee pointed out.
The research was presented at the annual conference British Psychological Society’s Developmental and Social Psychology Section in Manchester.