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Consuming for friendship


Swedish children have, both from a historical perspective and in comparison to many other countries, greater access to financial resources and a higher standard of living.

However, the gap between households who are well off and those who struggle is growing. At the same time, children face a growing pressure to consume in order to be accepted by their peers. Erika Lundby, Linnaeus University in Sweden, investigates how children, ages 9–12, perceive and understand consumption, as a part of their social life with friends.

Three main issues are dealt with in the study; How do children perceive the function of consumption in peer relationships? How do children value consumption in peer relationships? To what extent does age and social context influence children’s perceptions of consumption in peer relationships?

Altogether, 101 children from four different schools participated in the study. The different schools’ location and prestige indicate that there was a mix of children what goes for class and ethnicity. The results are presented in four articles that contribute with new angles on how children perceive consumption in their social life with friends.
“Most children in the study perceive consumption as a useful tool to strengthen social relations with peers”, says Erika Lundby. However, some children also expressed moral values, stressing that it is “wrong to buy friends”.

... more about:
»Consuming »relationships »stresses

Furthermore, the dissertation shows that the children’s perceptions of consumption vary depending on age, gender, and area of living. In the analysis, the author of the dissertation stresses the importance of understanding children as both competent and dependent, in order to establish a more nuanced understanding of them as consumers.
Erika Lundby has established a new concept, relational consumption, based on children’s perceptions of consumption. The concept is mainly used to describe consumption that is used to create, strengthen and maintain social relationships.

“To summarise, one can say that the dissertation contributes to increasing the knowledge of how children aged 9–12perceive consumption in the Swedish society of today”, says Erika Lundby. It also shows how important it is that social work pays attention to relational consumption.

Erika Lundby is a childhood sociologist and has, in a number of projects, dealt with research issues relating to children’s and young people’s thoughts on consumption, economy, and poverty.

The dissertation Consuming for friendship. Children’s perceptions of relational consumption can be ordered from Linnaeus University Press:

For more information, please contact Erika Lundby, email:, phone: +46480-44 63 40, or +4676-215 95 34.

Pressofficer Kerstin Brodén, +46-707 673 044 or

Kerstin Brodén | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
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