Coping with Loneliness Through Materialism: Strategies Matter for Adolescent Development of Unethical Behaviors

38 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2016 Last revised: 19 Nov 2016

See all articles by Elodie Gentina

Elodie Gentina

SKEMA Business School – Université de Lille

L. J. Shrum

HEC Paris

Tina M. Lowrey

HEC Paris - Marketing

Date Written: April 21, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Gentina, Elodie and Shrum, L. J. and Lowrey, Tina, Coping with Loneliness Through Materialism: Strategies Matter for Adolescent Development of Unethical Behaviors (April 21, 2016). Journal of Business Ethics, Forthcoming; HEC Paris Research Paper No. MKG-2016-1177. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2866806 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2866806

Elodie Gentina (Contact Author)

SKEMA Business School – Université de Lille ( email )

Avenue Willy Brandt, Euralille
Lille, 59777
France

L. J. Shrum

HEC Paris ( email )

1 rue de la Liberation
Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351
France

Tina Lowrey

HEC Paris - Marketing ( email )

Paris
France

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