December 5, 2011
By katie ambrose BRONZE, Auburn, New York
katie ambrose BRONZE, Auburn, New York
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

L. Robert Kohls, the Executive Director of the Washington International Center wrote an article, The Values Americans Live By, in which he described 13 values that Americans posses. Many of the values that Kohls describes are evident among Americans, but they have failed to be recognized among our society. One value Americans have is materialism. I agree with the way that Kohls views materialism among Americans. People in the United States collect more items than people in other countries would even dream of. Americans have significantly higher standard when it comes to the things they own. As materialism continues to grow in the United States, it’s becoming the only way of life that kids know. Teenagers are growing up in a world where the aspect in life is want rather than need. Materialism is shaping the American perspective on values, so that in their minds, materialism equals happiness. Due to parenting, competition, and spending, teens growing up in America are more materialistic than ever.

It’s true that children look up to adults. After time they develop the habits, good and bad that their parents have taught them. When children see their parents strive for the latest gadgets from Apple every month, they assume that having the newest and priciest items is acceptable. Not only do parents want material objects for themselves, but they use material objects as a way to bribe their children. Often I hear of fellow classmates receiving money and gifts for achieving high grades. Parents use material goods to motivate their kids into doing well in school, giving the kids the interpretation that if they do well they will obtain something high in value in return. Also, parents are often buying their children things to make them feel better, but excessive materialism is proven to be linked to emotional problems. Many people think that money can buy happiness, but this is not the case. Surprisingly, due to American materialism there is a new group of “at-risk” kids; the kids that factor materials into equaling their happiness. This group of kids belongs to the upper and middle class, all of which have parents that make a comfortable income. It is assumed that children coming from families with privileges are better off in all aspects of life, but this is not true. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, 22 percent of girls from affluent families are clinically depressed, which is three times the national rate, and somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of teens from privileged backgrounds have significant psychological symptoms (Levine). Owning the best of things does not always make for an ideal life. In the twenty-first century it is becoming evident that materialism in teens is being passed down by their parents. Children learn by watching and imitating the behaviors of those around them.

Consumers are hypnotized by the world of competition, sending them into the downward spiral of materialism. One of the many reasons that people, particularly teens, want to buy things is the brand name. The brand name of a product will ensure that a persons wealth will be displayed for everyone to see. When teenagers spring for the expensive pair of jeans they are doing so not for themselves, but for the people around them. They want to be sure that everyone recognizes what they have, and they do so by, “(a) mentioning a brand name, and (b) mentioning that the item purchased was expensive”(Fitzmaurice). Materialism can either make us greedy by showing off what we have or embarrassed of what we don’t have. People are constantly trying to outdo each other when it comes to the things they own. Having more and the biggest of things seems to be what drives people to be so absorbed in materialistic lives. The choice of college and a persons career even fall into this category of “want”. Some people go to college to pursue a career based on the amount of money that they will make afterwards, not on whether or not they have a passion for it. People use college as a way to obtain all of the things they want to have. It paves the way to own a big house, expensive cars and the leisure to throw money out the window (Christopher). The competitiveness of having the best of everything, makes falling into the category of “materialistic” a race to the finish. Americans compete for the satisfaction of knowing they have the greatest things.

The spending trends of Americans contributes to the amount of materialism in this country due to the lack of money management. Teens have a tendency to not let money burn a hole in their pocket and spend the money that they obtain right away. Sales contribute greatly to teenagers spending their money on things, especially sales around the holidays. "Holiday shopping accounts for almost 20% of annual sales"(McFeatters). In the months of November and December people are occupied with finding gifts for their friends and family. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving are times when Americans do most of their spending. It goes to show that people aren’t focused on the actually holiday itself, but what type of new materials they will be receiving. Christmas was is supposed to mark the date of Christ’s birth, and to spend time with family, but it’s taken on a new meaning. This is evident with the sales that stores offer, which also leads to splurge purchasing among consumers. “A splurge purchase is a specific purchase item that consumers distinguish from other purchase items and consumers have an initial, self-references definition of what purchases are deemed splurgable purchase” (Fitzmaurice). When consumers splurge purchase they have an idea in mind of what they want to buy before they go to the store. When high school students go back-to-school shopping, they have in mind the stores that they want to go to, what type of jeans they want to buy, and how many shirts they want. A purchase by this type of consumer is based on what they want as opposed to what they need. They spend money just to spend it, until they have none left. Teenagers in America don’t know hove to mange their money correctly. The saving money process is almost unheard of in the world of teens. "American have grown weary of the work-spend-consume treadmill; and a growing number of us are recognizing that consumerism and its counterpart, materialism are inerendy and are casting about for alternative value systems”(Urbanska). The expectation of teens is that once they earn money they need to go out and spend it or even worse, they spend money that they don’t actually have. They’re drifting off the path that is seen as an acceptable spending by other countries, other than America.

Materialism in America continues to grow. Teenagers are living in a world where the idea of want over need is more relevant. Even though many Americans do not realize that our values are decreasing, other countries pay close attention.The standards of countries other than the United States are much higher than ours, resulting in higher values as well. Teenagers are adding to a materialistic America based upon the way they were raised, competition among other teens, and spending habits. What all Americans fail to realize is that materialism does not bring happiness.

Works Cited
Christopher, Maura. “How Much is Enough.” Current Health Teens Dec. 2007: 3. Rpt. in How Much Is Enough. 434th ed. Stamford: Weekly Reader Corporation, 2007. 3. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <>.
Fitzmaurice, Julie. “Splurge purchases and materialism .” The Journal of Consumer Marketing 25.6 (2008): 332-338. Rpt. in Splurge purchases and materialism. Santa Barbara: n.p., 2008. N. pag. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <>.
Levine, Madeline. “How Materialism Hurts Our Kids: Privlege .” TIKKUN Jan. 2007: 33-36, 60. Rpt. in How Materialism Hurts Our Kids: Privilege. Vol. 22. San Francisco: Institute of Labor and Mental Health, 2007. N. pag. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <>.
McFeatters, Dale. “Shopping tradition drives U.S. economy.” USA TODAY 24 Nov. 2006: n. pag. Rpt. in General Interest Periodicals--United States. McLean, Va: USA Today, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc., 2006. N. pag. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <>.
Urbanska, Wanda. “Simpler Living.” Mother Earth News 10 Oct. 2008: 4. Rpt. in Mother Earth News. Topeka: Ogden Publication Co, n.d. N. pag. Proquest. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. <>.

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