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Peer Group Influence on Urban Preadolescents' Attitudes Toward Material Possessions: Social Status Benefits of Material Possessions


  • This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF 0339070) and William T. Grant Foundation (Grant ID 6934) to Hongling Xie. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the granting agencies. We thank the students who participated in our study and the schools that assisted our study in various ways. We appreciate the assistance by Pinky Patel, Ashley Dugan, Ngalula Fleurant, Marisa Gauger, Sara Heverly-Fitt, Phylicia Joseph and Olivia Taduran in data collection and processing. In particular, we appreciate the constructive comments from the two anonymous reviewers on earlier drafts of this article.


This study explores peer influence on urban preadolescents' perceptions of social status benefits of material possessions. A longitudinal design is used. Natural, interaction-based peer groups are identified through the Social Cognitive Map procedure. Findings indicate that high-status rather than low-status peers in a group are influential on individuals. Strong influence of high-status peers is observed in both boys' and girls' groups. High-status peers are particularly influential on low-status individuals in girls' groups and on high-status individuals in boys' groups. Additionally, high-status peers' influence is stronger on African Americans than on Hispanic Americans and tends to be stronger on Hispanic Americans than on White Americans. These findings imply that special attention should be given to high-status youth in groups who highly endorse social benefits of material possessions. Characteristics of the target youth (e.g., gender, ethnicity and individual status) should be considered in future efforts for reducing the pervasiveness of materialism.