Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Money: What It Means to Children and Adults

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Money: What It Means to Children and Adults

Article excerpt

The findings of three studies on money perceptions by Chinese subjects were reported. In Study 1, 378 kindergarten children (age five and six) were asked to give free associations to 86 Chinese words. The word money elicited a large number of associations (ranked ninth in five-year-olds and 21st in six year-olds), indicating that money was not an unfamiliar or uninteresting concept to children of very young age. Analysis also showed that the associations of money were primarily non-evaluative and functional in nature. In Study 2, 71 school teachers, 58 business people, and 338 high school students were asked to rate what money meant to them. Results showed that school teachers tended to perceive money as less good and honest than business people did. The student group was found to give lower goodness and power ratings than the two professional groups and lower honesty and interest ratings than the business group. The results thus showed that perceptions of money were very much related to one's social role. In Study 3, the relation of money attitudes and value orientation was examined in a sample of 1463 university students. Results showed that those who were high on preference for enjoyment, security, and achievement values, rated money more important than those low on these values. On the other hand, individuals who were high on the prosocial and maturity values rated money less important than those low on these values. The results thus indicated that the knowledge of people's value orientation would help to add to the understanding of their money perceptions.

Money occupies a special role in people's personal and social life. It affects people's motivation, well-being, and relationships with one another (Furnham & Lewis, 1986). Despite its prominence, research on money by psychologists has been scanty in the past. An increasing interest in the psychological study of economic behavior has however been noted in more recent research. One major focus of this area of research is on people's understanding of economic concepts and phenomena, and on their economic socialization process (e.g., Ng, 1983; Tan & Stacey, 1981). In connection to this, the layperson's conception of money is also of much interest to researchers ( e.g., Wernimont & Fitzpatrick, 1972), as it tends to carry strong psychological connotations that would affect people's reactions toward matters related to money. No study involving different age levels and professions has however been done. The focus of the present study was to examine the psychological meanings of money to children, as well as the relation of money perceptions to personal characteristics (such as professional experience and value orientation) in adolescents and adults.

Money is a very emotion-laden subject in our society. It connotes diverse meanings, most of which are highly evaluative and moralistic in nature (Wernimont & Fitzpatrick, 1972; Wiseman, 1974). Through socialization and direct experience with money, how then do children perceive it? Because of their lesser experience, it is possible that they might hold less diverse understanding of money (Stacey, 1982). It was also expected that they would not have very strong evaluative and moralistic judgment of money. Study 1 of the present research was an attempt to examine kindergarten children's perceptions of money through free associations. The focus was on analyzing the content of their responses in terms of diversity and evaluative/moralistic connotations.

Through different socialization experiences, people come to understand money differently. One source of such influence is one's social and professional role. From different roles, people may look at money differently (Wernimont & Fitzpatrick, 1972). Study 2 was an attempt to examine how business people and school teachers would perceive money. Business and teaching represent a fair degree of contrast in terms of professional goal and emphasis: Business is more profit (money) oriented, whereas teaching is more people oriented. …

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