A joint study carried out by researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri revealed that a certain parenting technique may cause children to develop materialistic tendencies when they enter adulthood, according to the MU News Bureau.
The rearing style pointed out in the study involves rewarding children with toys and other treats in exchange for good behavior. The researchers came up with their findings after conducting a survey on over 700 adult participants.
The volunteers were then asked to answer a series of questions regarding their childhood experiences, the types of rewards and punishments they received when they were young, and their relationship with their parents.
According to Marsha Richins, a marketing professor at the University of Missouri and the co-author of the study, children who are rewarded by their parents with material goods are more prone to developing a certain outlook about life.
Richins noted that as they get older, they begin to perceive that personal achievements are measured by the rewards they receive or the number of their material possessions.
"Loving parents tend to provide their children with material rewards," she stated in the study.
"One explanation for the link between material rewards and later materialism is that children who receive these rewards are more likely than others to use possessions to define and enhance themselves, an essential element of materialism," she added.
Richins pointed out that the same concept also applies to punishments. For instance, taking away a child's favorite toy every time he or she misbehaves can alter his or her perception of other people.
Children who grew up experiencing this type of punishment will more likely admire those with expensive material goods. For them, the possessions accurately reflect a person's achievements in life.
The study's co-author, University of Illinois professor Lan Chaplin explained that the findings of the report do not indicate that parents should stop giving their kids toys and other material goods, Science Daily reported.
Although she said it's still okay to reward children, Chaplin emphasized that parents should teach them to express gratitude every time they receive gifts. Doing so will help in avoiding the development of materialistic tendencies.
"It's OK to want to buy things for your children, but remember to encourage them to be grateful for all the people and things they have in their lives," she stated in the study.
"Each time children express their gratitude, they become more aware of how fortunate they are, which paves the way for them to be more generous and less materialistic," Chaplin added. "Spend time with your children and mode warmth, gratitude and generosity to help curb materialism."
The study, titled "Material Parenting: How the Use of Goods in Parenting Fosters Materialism in the next Generation," will be published in April of next year by the Journal of Consumer Research, a site dedicated to featuring reports on marketing-related topics.