Parents’ mental state communication and children’s consumer behavior in the USA

Eunjoo Choi, Matthew A. Lapierre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Previous research has shown that children’s ability to understand mental states is related to their consumer development, yet it is unknown how parents can aid in this process. One possible way that parents may help is using mental state communication (i.e. communication that focuses on beliefs/intention to explain behavior by others). This study aims to examine whether this kind of communication is linked to children’s purchase requests through two potential mediators – active mediation and child socio-cognitive skills (i.e. Theory of Mind). Design/methodology/approach: This study used a survey of 420 American mothers with children between the ages of 3 and 7. Respondents were given 12 scenarios describing typical parent–child interactions focused on discussing mental states and were asked how they would respond. Then, respondents were asked about demographic information, parenting style, mediation style, child socio-cognitive skills and child purchase requests. Findings: Results showed both a direct and indirect negative association between parents’ mental state communication and children’s purchase requests via active advertising mediation. Contrary to expectations, active mediation was negatively associated with mental state communication and positively linked to child purchase requests. Children’s socio-cognitive skills were not associated with either parents’ mental state communication or children’s purchase requests. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first known study that has examined mental state communication of parents as a potential predictor in shaping children’s purchase requests and found that it was negatively associated with it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-287
Number of pages16
JournalYoung Consumers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 13 2023


  • Consumer socialization
  • Mental state communication
  • Parental mediation
  • Parent–child communication
  • Theory of Mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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