Erika Lundby, a childhood sociologist and a postgraduate student at Linneaus University, has looked at how children aged 9 to 12 experience and understand consumption as a part of social life.
The result shows that most children in the study experience consumption as an important social aspect of life, and as a useful tool in sustaining social relations with their peers. The children showed that they feel it’s important not to just have things but to have them in order to participate in a specific activity or game.

“If their peers bike, then they want a bike, if they play with Lego, they want Lego. But also to express who they are and that they belong to a certain group,” explains Lundby. She adds that many children spoke about “giving gifts in order to show they are nice. And that others then want to play with you. But many children also said it was wrong, that you shouldn’t try to buy friendship.” The study shows that children’s ideas of consumption vary with age. “It seems like a lot happens during ages 9 to 12. Nine-year-olds talk a lot about fitting in, and what’s considered boys’ stuff and girls’ stuff. Twelve-year-olds have a more nuanced way of speaking,” Lundby says. She believes children’s ideas about consumption will have consequences. “Many children expressed that a lack in consumption or having the ‘wrong’ kinds of things may lead to bullying or exclusion.”