This New Study Found that Fostering Gratitude Can Reduce Materialism in Teens

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Professor of Business Administration, Gies College of Business

Make every day Thanksgiving. Fostering gratitude can actually reduce materialism and increase generosity in teens, according to new research study co-authored by Gies College of Business professor Aric Rindfleisch.

The paper, “The Impact of Gratitude on Adolescent Materialism and Generosity,” has been published in The Journal of Positive Psychology and it shows that teens who were asked to keep a gratitude journal – a daily log of things they were thankful for – for two weeks, showed a decrease in materialism and an increase in generosity.

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This research was broken up in two studies. The first study showed that teens ages 11-17 who possessed a more grateful disposition were less materialistic. Study two took that one step further. Adolescents were divided into two groups. One group was asked to keep a gratitude journal; the other group just kept a journal of their everyday activities.

“Both groups had the same materialistic tendencies at the beginning of the two weeks, but those who kept a gratitude journal for 14 days had their materialism level reduced,” said Rindfleisch, Professor of Business Administration and John M. Jones Professor of Marketing at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business. “The teens who were keeping the journal of their daily events gave around $4.30 to charity. Those who were recording things they were grateful for actually gave a higher amount, $6.80 approximately.”

After only two weeks, the group that kept the gratitude journal showed a decrease in materialism. The two groups were also given $10 cash. They could either keep the money or donate some to charity. The group that kept the gratitude journal donated 60% more money to charity than the group who kept the regular daily journal.

“At the dinner table or maybe while you’re watching TV, state things that you’re thankful for as a family. And we also mention the idea in this research of a gratitude jar, in which every day you have some Post-It notes, and members of the family can just jot down things that they were thankful for that day. Maybe somebody was kind to them at school or at work, and drop that in the jar. And maybe every so often every couple of weeks dig in the jar and read them as a family,” said Rindfleisch.

This is one of the first research studies to show a causation between gratitude, materialism, and generosity. It could provide a roadmap for parents struggling to instill these important values in their children. Rindfleisch suggests parents model this behavior for their children.

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One thought on “This New Study Found that Fostering Gratitude Can Reduce Materialism in Teens

  1. Wow, what a powerful study. I never thought something so simple could have such an effect on teenagers! I was amazed to read that the “grateful” teens gave 60% more of their money to charity. That is just incredible. Thank you for sharing this study, Anllelic! Great article.

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