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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Michael Morgan

Second Advisor

Erica Scharrer

Third Advisor

Emily West

Fourth Advisor

Aline Sayer

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


Employing cultivation theory as a guiding framework, and utilizing online survey responses from 303 young adults aged 18 to 25, this study examined how parents’ television viewing cultivates materialism among parents and young adult offspring, as well as offspring’s social comparison and life satisfaction. Path analyses revealed the evidence for intergenerational cultivation through parents’ materialism for the success and happiness dimensions of materialism. For the two dimensions, parents’ general television viewing positively predicts their own materialism, which in turn is positively associated with their children’s materialism. Somewhat differently, the analysis on the centrality dimension of materialism suggest that parents’ general television viewing predicts stronger materialism among parents, and children’s television viewing is positively associated with the materialism of theirs, yet parents’ materialism is not correlated with children’s centrality dimension of materialism. Analyses on genre-specific viewing revealed that drama, sitcom, sports, and reality shows predict intergenerational cultivation of the success and/or happiness dimensions of materialism. Multi-group SES-based analyses demonstrate that intergenerational cultivation of materialism is more pronounced among individuals whose parents are wealthier and have higher educational attainment. Data analyses also yielded surprising findings. While all three dimensions of materialism are negatively correlated with life satisfaction, it was found that the success and centrality dimensions of materialism positively predicts downward social comparison: Individuals who believe that people’s life accomplishment can be evaluated based on material possessions, and those who like to incorporate luxury in their lives tend to have the perception of being economically better off relative to other people. In contrast, the happiness dimension of materialism negatively predicts downward social comparison: Those who wish they could afford more material goods tend to perceive themselves as economically worse off than other people. Results from SES-based analyses indicate the positive association between materialism and downward social comparison that was found in the success and centrality dimensions of materialism is stronger among individuals from higher-SES families. In contrast, the negative relationship between the happiness dimension of materialism and downward social comparison emerged among individuals from less advantaged SES.