The Great Recession: Implications for Adolescent Values and Behavior

Heejung Park, University of California, Los Angeles
Jean Twenge, San Diego State University
Patricia Greenfield, University of California, Los Angeles
Publication Date:
Jan 2013
Project Programs:
The Social and Economic Effects of the Great Recession

Based on Greenfield’s theory of social change and human development, we predicted that adolescents’ values, behaviors, and self-assessments would become more collectivistic and less individualistic during the Great Recession (2008–2010) compared to the prerecession period (2004-2006), thereby reversing long-term trends from the 1970s. Data came from Monitoring the Future, a nationally representative yearly survey of 12th graders. Concern for others and environmentalism increased from the prerecession period to recession, reversing long-term declines. Long-term trends toward increasing materialism partially reversed: Wanting a job making lots of money continued to increase, the increase in the importance of money leveled off, and the increase in desiring to own expensive material items reversed. Long-term trends toward increasingly positive self-views continued. Correlations with economic indicators (median income, employment rate) over the entire time period (1976–2010) showed that collectivism was high and individualism was low during times of economic deprivation, consistent with Greenfield’s theory.


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