Saturday, March 1, 2014

Consumerist Norms

From a UCLA study of today's middle class family:
  • Managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it actually elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers.
  • Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff. 
  • "Master suites" for parents proved the most common home renovation, yet the spaces were hardly used.
  • Even with clement year-round weather, families rarely used their yards, even if they had invested in outdoor improvements and furnishings.
  • Fragmented dinners — those in which family members eat sequentially or in different rooms — are common.
  • Only 3.1 percent of the world's children live in the United States, but U.S. families buy more than 40 percent of the toys consumed globally. 
  • Several homes in the study had at least 250 toys on display, and most had at least 100. Untold numbers of other toys were tucked away in closets and under beds.
  • CELF researchers estimate that each new child in a household leads to a 30 percent increase in a family's possessions during the preschool years alone.

Can you guess what the rest of the developed world looks like?

Moving on to Europe, new research by UNICEF has shown that children in the UK feel trapped in a "materialistic culture" and don't spend enough time with their families.

The research gives an in-depth comparison of over 250 children's experiences across three developed countries: the UK, Sweden and Spain.
Children in all three countries told researchers that their happiness is dependent on having time with a stable family and plenty of things to do, especially outdoors, rather than on owning technology or branded clothes.
Despite this, one of the most striking findings is that parents said they felt tremendous pressure from society to buy goods for their children; this pressure was felt most acutely in low-income homes.

OK, this part is a broader look at developed nations from the UNICEF study, and you're going to hate it.  And the part that follows is even more annoying.  

(click on the charts for a larger view)

These are things that require families to talk and think and perhaps change, for their children's sake.

Children's relationships with peers and parents can vary widely across national and cultural borders.

Cultural norms surround us, but we needn't conform thoughtlessly.  

We're encouraged that thoughtful choices can make the difference for which we so sincerely hope.

For a quick look around the world at kids and toys, here's Toy Stories!  

And for a look at where children sleep, here's Bedtime Stories!