Volume 27, Issue 4 p. 480-499
Research Review

Materialism pathways: The processes that create and perpetuate materialism

Marsha L. Richins

Marsha L. Richins

Trulaske College of Business, University of Missouri, Cornell Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, United States

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First published: 03 August 2017
Citations: 109
Accepted by Deborah Roedder John, Editor

The author thanks Omid Kamran-Disfani and Yiwen Chen, doctoral students at the University of Missouri, for their assistance in collecting articles for this review.


Materialism has been examined in many social science disciplines from multiple perspectives. This review synthesizes this extensive literature into two organizing frameworks that describe how materialism develops in children and how materialism is reinforced and perpetuated in adulthood. The major components of the developmental model are the daily event cycle, developmental tasks, cultural influence, and family environment, all of which interact to influence how materialistic a child becomes. The reinforcement model describes how personal qualities that materialists tend to possess make them more vulnerable to threats in daily events, resulting in psychological discomfort. The desire to reduce this discomfort, in conjunction with the transformative powers that materialists ascribe to acquisition, results in actions and outcomes that reinforce materialistic tendencies. Suggestions for furthering the study of materialism are also included.