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Testing three materialism life-course theories in South Africa

Helen Duh (Department of Marketing Management, Faculty of Management, University of Johannesburg (UJ), Johannesburg, South Africa)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 21 September 2015




About 80 per cent of consumers in the world reside in emerging consumer markets (ECM). Thus, consumer behaviour theories and models should be tested for validation in ECM such as South Africa (socio-economically and culturally diverse). The purpose of this paper is to test three (human capital, stress and socialization) life-course theoretical perspectives on materialism among South African young adults. Employing the three life-course theoretical perspectives, it was posited that disruptive family events experienced during adolescence will affect materialism at young adulthood directly and indirectly through family resources received, perceived stress from family disruptions and peer communication about consumption.


In total, 300 South African young adults were surveyed. Structural equation modelling was used to test eight hypotheses developed from the three life-course theoretical perspectives on materialism. Independent-samples t-test was first conducted to assess whether the respondents were materialistic.


The South African young adults were found to be materialistic and this was explained by peer communication about consumption during adolescence (socialization life-course theoretical perspective). Disruptive family events experienced during adolescence significantly affected family resources negatively, and perceived stress positively, but these outcomes had no impact on materialism at young adulthood as the human capital and stress life-course theoretical perspectives suggest.


The results reinforce the need to test the validity of western theories in an African context. The test can improve theories and can help advance knowledge about consumer diversity across cultures.



Duh, H. (2015), "Testing three materialism life-course theories in South Africa", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 747-764.



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