Coping with Loneliness Through Materialism: Strategies Matter for Adolescent Development of Unethical Behaviors
38 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2016 Last revised: 19 Nov 2016
Date Written: April 21, 2016
Engaging in risky consumption behaviors (cigarettes, alcohol, etc.) is an acute societal problem that can have severe consequences for adolescents, and businesses in particular have been accused of making such consumption particularly appealing and accessible. However, the causes of risky behaviors are not well understood and research on the causes has been mixed. In this research, we investigate the effects of loneliness on adolescents’ adoption of risky behaviors. We test the proposition that adolescent loneliness affects the adoption of risky behaviors, but that this effect depends on the strategies that adolescents adopt to cope with their loneliness. In a large-scale study (n = 409) of adolescents (ages 13-18), we show support for a sequential mediation model in which active and passive coping strategies both mediate the effect of loneliness on risky behaviors, but with opposite effects. Active coping strategies reduce the adoption of risky behaviors, whereas passive coping strategies increase the adoption of risky behaviors. In addition, we show that active and passive coping strategies can be executed through consumption practices. Active coping strategies are positively associated with the sharing of possessions, whereas passive coping strategies are positively associated with product acquisition. We shed new light on both the bright and dark sides of materialism and risky behaviors, and provide practical implications for research on loneliness and business ethics.
Keywords: Loneliness, Coping strategies, Risky Behaviors, Adolescent consumers, Materialism, Sharing
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