The Influence of Life Events on Young Consumers’ Compulsive Shopping Tendencies

The Influence of Life Events on Young Consumers’ Compulsive Shopping Tendencies



The Influence of Life Events on Young Consumers’ Compulsive Shopping Tendencies


Natasha Nagel, Monica M. Popa Sârghie

Classification JEL

M30, M31, M14, I31, I18, L83, L31, L38.


This research aims to uncover which life events (if any) might increase young consumers’ tendencies toward compulsive shopping. Existing literature suggests that stressful events can trigger addictive behaviors, including compulsive buying, with consequences on wellbeing and finances. Our study examines an array of transitional events (e.g., getting the first-time job, moving out of parents’ home, family member’s death), events that mark life changes or role transitions and are stressful while the individual adjusts to new circumstances. Their impact on the development of maladaptive shopping habits is explored in an experimental study with 146 Canadian university students (average age = 20). Overspending and debt accumulation is particularly problematic for young consumers: negative habits developed early in their career can last a lifetime, so understanding compulsive tendencies at this stage is vital. Participants reported their shopping habits on a paper-and-pencil questionnaire, using the compulsive buying scales of Faber and O’Guinn (1992) and Ridgeway et al. (2008). Then, respondents indicated if they experienced any of the transitional events from a listed inventory, when the event occurred, and the intensity of their felt experience (1= not bad at all; 7 = very bad). Other psychological measures were collected, including self-esteem (Heatherton and Polivy, 1991), materialism (Richins and Dawson, 1992), and optimism (Scheier et al., 1994). ANOVA results showed that the type of event, timing, and emotional intensity of the life event influence compulsive buying outcomes. Notably impactful are romantic relationship breakups, deaths of friends, deaths of loved pets, incurring serious injuries/surgeries, moving out of parents’ home, job losses, and working again after a period without work. State self-esteem and materialism are significant factors, but not mediators between transitional life events and compulsive shopping. This research highlights paths through which compulsive buying can develop in early adulthood, offering actionable implications and novel theoretical insights.


consumer behavior, marketing, compulsive buying, addictive shopping, life events.

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