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How Materialism Can Hinder Maturity in Students

According to a recent report published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, today’s teenagers are more materialistic than their Baby Boomer parents. The study also reveals that this materialism is likely the fault of adults who created a culture that breeds narcissism and entitlement. Kids are the products of the parents and society that raised them.

What concerns me as much as this is that the same study reports that Generation Y is also the least likely to work hard for what they receive. While teens are more apt to want a vacation home, there is a “growing disconnect between their willingness to do the work to pay for these things,” says Dr. Jeanne Twenge and Tim Kasser from San Diego State University.


Let’s face it—we are all products of the times we live in, to some degree. Once in a while, however, there is a perfect storm of elements that are cause for concern. This co-existence of materialism and lower work-ethic could become an Achilles heel for graduates. In short, if I think I deserve more “stuff,” but I am less willing to work hard to get that “stuff,” someone’s going to lose. Either young adults will feel they’ve been cheated, or parents will feel compelled to get the “stuff” for them.

Why Materialism Could Be an Achilles Heel:

1. Teens today are more materialistic than their Boomer parents

We, the adults, have failed to curb the current sense of entitlement in kids today. Perhaps we’ve even bought into it ourselves. We want and need more things than past generations just to survive and be happy.

2. Teens today are less likely to want to work hard for the materials they want

The need for more things can only be satisfied if we are willing to work to get those things. In other words, if I want more, I must be willing to work more. This ethic hasn’t been cultivated in most youth today.

3. This conflict may lead to entitlement and eventually cause depression.

If I think I deserve it, but no one gives it to me, I will act out in frustration, or get depressed. My anger will either come out in inappropriate behavior or I will learn to suppress it. Anger, when suppressed, becomes depression.

Let me say something controversial. I have a theory that is untested, but I have wondered about it for years.  Is there a correlation between materialism and maturity? As I watch healthy adults age, I often notice—they need less to make them happy. (There are some exceptions in elders over the age of 75, but few healthy ones). What I mean is—when I am emotionally immature, it seems I seek happiness through possessions or positions and I end up in a rat race or I become dissatisfied. On the other hand, when I am emotionally mature, I am able to regulate myself, work hard for the things I want, instead of feeling entitled to them.

I believe an attitude of entitlement is one that reveals immaturity. True maturity doesn’t demand. This is why gratitude, work ethic and contentment are vivid illustrations of emotional maturity.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?






  1. Jeff Miller on July 3, 2013 at 6:36 am

    This was a great article…I agree, to many kids now days just simply are lazy.. They want the adult things but don’t want the responsibilities that go along with it..I see to many kids think they are entitled to things without working for them and their parents just go along with it.

  2. Bruce on July 3, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Absolutely right. Maturity does not demand. In fact, maturity is a willingness to do without and not complain. When you grow up, you learn that you are not the center of the world and that you are here to serve others. So how do we communicate that to students – as parents and as teachers? Even more, how do we model that?

  3. Roger on July 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Bullseye. I’ve seen this with my own children and all around. Think it’s important to go back to the basics in a lot of areas. We don’t hear about kids being paid to do chores much anymore. Maybe paying them to read a book. It might be harder for younger children to get a job. There is plenty to do in our own homes and the homes of family and friends that would gladly hire them for odd jobs.

  4. marccorona on July 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I agree with what you are saying, but the solution is unclear in my mind. I believe parents have the responsibility to raise their kids to live healthy lives, therefore the blame is the parents and NOT the kids. You can’t expect a child to become mature, when they are taught (and retaught) by their parents to be immature. It also makes sense to me that when something takes a generation to shift one way, it will take at least that long to shift again. When teenagers reach the age at which they are independent from their parents they can be held accountable, and hopefully recognize the failure of their parents and correct it in their own lives. Other than raising awareness for future change, what can we do? Immaturity breeds immaturity, and maturity breeds maturity, how can we get immaturity to breed maturity?

  5. Richie on July 9, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Do you think some of this comes from parents wanting the best for their kids and sacrificing stuff for them. I agree as parents we need to do that, but is there a point where it is too far. For example, if I let my kid drive my nicer car and I sacrifice for them so I drive ‘their car’ which is not as nice. I do it because I want to sacrifice and give my kids the best I can. But does that end up giving my kid a sense of entitlement and expectation.

    Just a thought.

  6. Juci Shockwave on January 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I’m curious if this study was conducted across economic status or was it just limited to studying teens within middle and upper economic status households? Anyways I agree with many of the previous comments. One can’t blame the kids for this. They are raised in a consumerist, materialistic society that believes in personal instant gratification, and if the household reinforces or practice these beliefs than of course the kids/teens will come out like that. All this just reinforces the ideals that there should be a reproductive licensing. Right now we have a culture/society of babies having babies. If people want to stop this cycle of immaturity than stop allowing immature people from having kids.

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How Materialism Can Hinder Maturity in Students