This paper aims to explore how children’s developing ability to effectively regulate their emotions influences their consumer behavior .
Working with 80 children and one of their parents, this study used direct observations of child behavior in a task where they needed to regulate their emotions and a survey of parents about their child’s emotional development and consumer behavior. The research used quantitative methods to test whether children’s emotion regulation predicted parent reported consumer behavior (e.g. purchase requests, parent–child purchase related conflict) via multiple regression analyses.
After controlling for children’s age and linguistic competence, the study found that children’s ability to control positively valenced emotions predicted consumer behavior. Specifically, children who had more difficulty suppressing joy/happiness were more likely to ask their parents for consumer goods and were more likely to argue with parents about these purchases.
Content analyses of commercials targeting children have shown that many of the persuasive appeals used by advertisers are emotionally charged and often feature marketing characters that children find affectively pleasing. These findings suggest that these types of marketing appeals may overwhelm younger children which can lead to conflict with parents. Consequently, marketers and policy makers may want to re-examine the use of such tactics with younger consumers.
While the potential link between children’s emotional development and consumer behavior has been suggested in theoretical work, this is the first known study to empirically test this theorized relationship.
The author would like to acknowledge the following people for their help with this article, Dr Joseph Cappella, Dr Doug Frye, Dr Robert Hornik, Dr Deborah Linebarger, Dr Paul Messaris, Katie McMenamin and Jim McPartlin.
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