Developmental consumer psychology: Children in the twenty-first century

Lan Nguyen Chaplin, Paul M. Connell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Three year-old Amara can't identify money denominations, but she knows you exchange money for things you want, like food and toys. To Amara, brands are names of stores and commercials are entertaining and truthful. But for all the things she doesn't know, she has the admirable curiosity to ask one hundred questions a day.Armed with more consumption knowledge, seven-year-old Willhelm can correctly identify all money denominations but still thinks a box of Legos costing $189 is “not bad” since you get more than six hundred pieces. He recognizes some brands to be “expensive and for rich people” and that commercials try to get you to buy. What he doesn't know, he has the admirable curiosity to ask almost as many questions a day as he did when he was Amara's age.Consumer socialization is defined as the process by which children acquire marketplace knowledge and skills (Ward, 1974) and is the cornerstone of developmental consumer psychology. The social and cultural benefits to understanding how children develop consumption knowledge, behaviors, and values are plentiful (see John 1999). However, top journals specializing in the consumer context such as the Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) and the Journal of Consumer Psychology (JCP) have published surprisingly little research in the area of developmental consumer psychology – fewer than twenty papers have been published in the last decade. The few studies that have been published in these leading journals have yielded a remarkable set of findings across a range of topics, including children's happiness with products and brands, brand understanding, materialism, consumption symbolism, and media effects on children.We have three goals for this chapter. First, we present our view of twenty-first-century young consumers (from preschool age through adolescence) with an emphasis on cutting-edge research across disciplines (e.g., consumer research, child development, health and nutrition, public policy, media consumption). Given the growing presence of media in children's lives, we discuss many findings on media effects on children's consumption throughout the chapter, but we also discuss surprisingly underresearched topics such as children's understanding of money as well as children's happiness with possessions and experiences.Second, in the spirit of emphasizing the most recent advances in developmental consumer psychology, we select three topics to discuss at a deeper level: children's materialism, health-related risky behavior, and online risky behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Psychology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781107706552
ISBN (Print)9781107069206
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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