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Unhappy Kids Are More Materialistic, Study Finds
Date:8/21/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Unhappy kids are more likely to become materialistic than children who are happy with their lives, a new study from the Netherlands suggests.

And TV advertising is an important instigator, the study found.

"Children who were less satisfied with their lives do become more materialistic over time, but only when they are frequently exposed to advertising," said study lead author Suzanna Opree. "Advertising seems to teach children that possessions are a way to increase happiness."

It's a significant finding because research with adults suggests that materialistic children may become less happy later in life, said Opree, a research associate at the University of Amsterdam School of Communication Research.

The study, which appears online Aug. 20 and in the September print issue of Pediatrics, involved 466 children who participated in online surveys both in October 2006 and October 2007.

What exactly is materialism? The study describes it as "having a preoccupation with possessions and believing that products bring happiness and success."

In the survey, the children responded to items measuring materialism -- for example, self-rating how much they like other children based on whether they have more possessions. Kids also rated how happy they were with their life, home, parents, friends, school and themselves and as a whole.

Ad exposure was gauged by how frequently kids watched nine ad-packed TV shows, including "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Skating With Celebrities," a Dutch family show.

Kids in general are bombarded with a lot of ads, the researchers said.

"Estimates on the numbers of TV ads children are annually exposed to vary from 10,000 in Britain (from a 2007 study) to 40,000 in the U.S. (from a 2001 study)," Opree said.

It's not a case of dissatisfied children watching more TV, she said.

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