The purpose of the paper is to explore children's perceptions of material possessions in Hong Kong using drawing and open‐ended questions.
A total of 42 Chinese children aged 6‐12 were asked to draw what comes to their minds for two statements: “This child has a lot of new and expensive toys”; and, “This child does not have a lot of toys.” After drawing, children were personally interviewed to answer four questions associating material possessions with its social meaning and symbolic significance.
Analysis of drawings and interviews indicated that there were significant difference in children's perception of someone with a lot of toys and someone without many toys in terms of observable qualities and personality traits. Younger children were more likely to relate material possessions with happiness, friendship, and feeling good about oneself. Older children were more likely to relate materialistic possessions with wastefulness. There is evidence that young children were able to appreciate the value of possessions based on emotional attachment, personality association and social meaning. It was contradictory to John's model of consumer socialization that young children could only understand the surface value of possessions.
Based on the findings, this paper proposed three hypotheses about children's perception of material possessions that can be further tested in a quantitative survey.
The paper may be of value to markets and advertisers who target at Chinese children. They should be sensitive to children's negative association of material possessions including wasteful and showing off. They can encourage the instrumental materialism of how to use material goods to protect the Earth's resources, to enhance friendship, and to achieve self‐defining goals.
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