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?





How Materialism Can Hinder Maturity in Students