Advertisement

Social Indicators Research

, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 391–404 | Cite as

The Incompatibility of Materialism and the Desire for Children: Psychological Insights into the Fertility Discrepancy Among Modern Countries

  • Norman P. LiEmail author
  • Lily Patel
  • Daniel Balliet
  • William Tov
  • Christie N. Scollon
Article

Abstract

We examined factors related to attitudes toward marriage and the importance of having children in both the US and Singapore. Path analysis indicated that life dissatisfaction leads to materialism, and both of these factors lead to favorable attitudes toward marriage, which leads to greater desire for children. Further analysis indicated this model was effective in explaining the difference in desire for children between Singaporeans and Americans, whereby Singaporeans have lower life satisfaction, higher materialism, and lower attitudes toward marriage and children. Materialistic standards of success were also related to the emphasis women placed on potential marriage partners’ earning capacity. As Singaporean women had higher materialistic standards, they also placed higher emphasis on potential mates’ earning capacity. Results suggest a consideration of psychological variables such as life satisfaction, materialism, and mate preferences may lead to a better understanding of larger-scale socioeconomic issues, including low fertility rates among developed East Asian countries.

Keywords

Materialism Life satisfaction Mate preferences Marriage Children Cross-cultural 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by Singapore Management University research grant #MSS8S017.

References

  1. Belk, R. W. (1985). Materialism: Trait aspects of living in the material world. Journal of Consumer Research, 12, 265–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Biston, J. (2007). Singapore’s shopping obsession inspires filmmaker. Reuters Life! Retrieved September 28, 2009, from http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSSIN7862120070817.
  3. Blau, P. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Bongaarts, J. (2001) Fertility and reproductive preferences in post-transitional societies. In J. Casterline, & R. Bulatao (Eds.) Population and development review supplement: global fertility transition (pp. 260–281).Google Scholar
  5. Burman, B., & de Anda, D. (1985). Parenthood or nonparenthood: A comparison of intentional families. Lifestyles, 8, 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burroughs, J. E., & Rindfleisch, A. (2002). Materialism and well-being: A conflicting values perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 29, 348–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buss, D. M. (2008). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  9. Buss, D. M., & Barnes, M. F. (1986). Preferences in human mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 559–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buss, D. M., et al. (1990). International preferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21, 5–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 5 C’s of Singapore. (2004). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_C’s_of_Singapore.
  12. Cable, D. M. & Judge, T. A. (1993). Effects of compensation systems on job search decisions: An application of person-organization fit. CAHRS Working Paper Series, 1–39. Google Scholar
  13. Callan, V. J. (1986). Single women, voluntary childlessness and perceptions about life and marriage. Journal of Biosocial Science, 18, 479–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chadha, R., & Husband, P. (2007). The cult of the luxury brand: Inside Asia’s love affair with luxury. London: Nicholas Brealey.Google Scholar
  15. Country Comparison: GDP—Per capita (PPP). (2009). CIA world factbook. Retrieved September 15, 2009, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html.
  16. Country Comparison: Total Fertility Rate. (2009). CIA world factbook. Retrieved September 15, 2009, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html.
  17. Detweiler-Bedell, J. B., Detweiler-Berdell, B., Hazlett, A., & Friedman, M. A. (2008). The effect of diagnosis and perceived reward on perceptions of depressive symptoms and social support. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diener, E., & Diener, M. (1995). Cross-cultural correlates of life satisfaction and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 653–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diener, E., Diener, M., & Diener, C. (1995). Factors predicting the subjective well-being of nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 851–864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of sex differences in human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. American Psychologist, 54, 408–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fletcher, G. J. O., Tither, J. M., O’Loughlin, C., Friesen, M., & Overall, N. (2004). Warm and homely or cold and beautiful? Sex differences in trading off traits in mate selection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 659–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frank, R. H., & Cook, P. J. (1995). The winner-take-all society. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  24. Fromm, E. (1976). To have or to be? New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  25. Global employment trends for women: March 2008. (2008). Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  26. Greenspan, A. (1994). After the demographic transition: Policy responses to low fertility in four Asian countries. Asia-Pacific Population Policy, 30, 1–4.Google Scholar
  27. Hacker, A. (1967). A defense (or at least an explanation) of American materialism. Sales Management, March, 31–33.Google Scholar
  28. Hatfield, E., Utne, M. K., & Traupmann, J. (1979). Equity theory and intimate relationships. In R. L. Burgess & T. L. Huston (Eds.), Social exchange in developing relationships (pp. 99–133). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hewitt, L. E. (1958). Student perceptions of traits desired in themselves as dating and marriage partners. Marriage and Family Living, Nov. 344–349.Google Scholar
  30. Hill, R. (1945). Campus values in mate selection. Journal of Home Economics, 37, 554–558.Google Scholar
  31. Hill, R. J. (1951). Attitudes toward marriage. Unpublished master’s thesis, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.Google Scholar
  32. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Jones, G., Straughan, P. T., & Chan, A. (Eds.). (2009). Ultra-low fertility in Pacific Asia: Trends, causes and policy issues. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Kang, S.-M., Shaver, P. R., Sue, S., Min, K.-H., & Jing, H. (2003). Culture-specific patterns in the prediction of life satisfaction: Roles of emotion, relationship quality, and self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1596–1608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kasser, T., Cohn, S., Kanner, A. D., & Ryan, R. M. (2007). Some costs of American corporate capitalism: A psychological exploration of value and goal conflicts. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 1–22.Google Scholar
  36. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Be careful what you wish for: Optimal functioning and the relative attainment of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. In P. Schmuck & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving (pp. 116–131). Goettingen, Germany: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.Google Scholar
  38. Leach, W. (1993). Land of desire: Merchants power, and the rise of a new American culture. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  39. Lee, R. D. (2003). The demographic transition: Three centuries of fundamental change. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 17, 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lench, H. C. (2009). Automatic optimism: The affective basis of judgments about the likelihood of future events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lerner, J. S., & Keltner, D. (2001). Fear, anger, and risk. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 146–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Li, N. P., Bailey, J. M., Kenrick, D. T., & Linsenmeier, J. A. W. (2002). The necessities and luxuries of mate preferences: Testing the tradeoffs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 947–955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lucas, R. E., & Clark, A. E. (2006). Do people really adapt to marriage? Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 405–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 527–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Martin, L. G. (1990). Changing intergenerational family relations in East Asia. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 510, 102–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McDonald, P. (2000). Gender equity, social institutions, and the future of fertility. Journal of Population Research, 17, 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McDonald, P. (2006). Low fertility and the state: The efficacy of policy. Population and Development Review, 32, 485–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McDonald, P. (2009). Explanations of low fertility in East Asia. In G. Jones, P. T. Straughan, & A. Chan (Eds.), Ultra-low fertility in Pacific Asia: Trends, causes and policy issues (pp. 23–39). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. McGinnis, R. (1958). Campus values in mate selection: A repeat study. Social Forces, 36, 368–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mead, N. L., Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Stillman, T. F. (2008). Does a broken heart lead to an empty wallet? The effect of social exclusion on personal spending. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  51. Myers, D. G. (1999). Close relationships and quality of life. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 374–391). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  52. Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6, 10–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nickerson, C., Schwarz, N., Diener, E., & Kahneman, D. (2003). Zeroing in on the dark side of the American dream: A closer look at the negative consequences of the goal for financial success. Psychological Science, 14, 531–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Preacher, K. J., Rucker, D. D., & Hayes, A. F. (2007). Assessing moderated mediation hypotheses: Theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 185–227.Google Scholar
  55. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  56. Reis, H. T., Sheldon, K. M., Gable, S. L., Roscoe, J., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). Daily well-being: The role of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 419–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Richins, M. L., & Dawson, S. (1992). A consumer values orientation for materialism and its measurement: Scale development and validation. Journal of Consumer Research, 19, 303–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Salts, C. I., Seismore, M. D., Lindholm, B. W., & Smith, T. A. (1994). Attitudes toward marriage and premarital sexual activity of college freshmen. Adolescence, 29, 775–779.Google Scholar
  59. Shirahase, S. (2000). Women’s increased higher education and the decline in fertility rate in Japan. Review of Population and Social Policy, 7, 47–64.Google Scholar
  60. Solberg, E. G., Diener, E., & Robinson, M. D. (2004). Why are materialists less satisfied? In T. Kasser & A. Kanner (Eds.), Psychology and consumer culture: The struggle for a good life in a materialistic world (pp. 29–48). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sprecher, S., Sullivan, Q., & Hatfield, E. (1994). Mate selection preferences: Gender differences examined in a national sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1074–1080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Swinyard, W. R., Kau, A.-K., & Phua, H.-Y. (2001). Happiness, materialism, and religious experience in the US and Singapore. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2, 13–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Taylor, S. E. (2007). Social support. In H. S. Friedman & R. C. Silver (Eds.), Foundations of health psychology (pp. 145–171). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 193–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thang, L. L. (2005). Private matters, public concern: Procreation issues in Singapore. The Japanese Journal of Population, 3, 76–108.Google Scholar
  66. Townsend, J. M. (1989). Mate selection criteria: A pilot study. Ethology and Sociobiology, 10, 241–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Triandis, H. C. (1995). Individualism and collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  68. Udry, J. R. (1981). Marital alternatives and marital disruption. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 43, 889–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Veenhoven, R. (1974). Is there an innate need for children? European Journal of Social Psychology, 4, 495–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Veenhoven, R. (2008). Average happiness in 144 nations 2000–2008. World Database of Happiness, RankReport 2009-1c. Internet: http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl.
  71. Weinstein, N. D. (1980). Unrealistic optimism about future life events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 806–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wiederman, M. W., & Allgeier, E. R. (1992). Gender differences in mate selection criteria. Ethology and Sociobiology, 13, 115–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wright, N. D., & Larsen, V. (1993). Materialism and life satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior, 6, 158–165.Google Scholar
  74. Zhou, X., & Gao, D.-G. (2008). Social support and money as pain management mechanisms. Psychological Inquiry, 19, 127–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman P. Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lily Patel
    • 2
  • Daniel Balliet
    • 1
  • William Tov
    • 1
  • Christie N. Scollon
    • 1
  1. 1.Singapore Management UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Northern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

Personalised recommendations