Document Type

Journal Article


Department of Communication Studies


Purpose – This study seeks to quantify how children in urban China perceive someone described as owning many or few expensive toys. It aims to measure the types of possessions and personal characteristics they attributed to such individuals. This is an extension of previous research on perceived links between possessions and personal characteristics.

Design/methodology/approach – A total of 268 Chinese children aged 9 to 14 were surveyed using a self‐administered questionnaire. Participants saw photos of a child described as having few or many expensive toys. They then imagined the possessions and personal characteristics of such a child. They also reported which child they would prefer to be.

Findings – A child with a lot of toys was perceived as more likely to have branded toys and new media toys. Such a child was more likely to be imagined as spending irresponsibly, selfish and envious of others. A child without many toys was considered more likely to have books and sports‐related toys. Participants were more likely to perceive this child as hardworking, with good academic results, smart, and with lots of friends. A total of 40 percent of the participants said they would prefer to be the child without many toys.

Research limitations/implications – The participants mostly came from lower middle class families, and they may be particularly inclined to project good qualities on people without many possessions.

Practical implications – Marketers and advertisers should be sensitive to the perceived link between possessions and negative personal characteristics of the owner. Advertisers of premium products and brands for children should stress the functional superiority of the products.

Originality/value – These results quantify and verify the results of a previous qualitative enquiry. They provide guidelines for marketers attempting to reach children in China in a culturally sensitive manner.

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Young Consumers

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Children (age groups), Consumer psychology, Perception, China

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Marketing Commons