Designer brands buy friends for kids

Trendy children who wear designer clothes and own expensive gadgets have more friends, according to a new study. An investigation which is yet to be published by the National Council for Danish Children shows that a third of pupils in the country’s fourth grade find they have a larger social group if they own the latest mobile phone and are kitted out in fashionable wares.

One in seven children also said they felt ostracised because they weren’t wearing the right brands. Of the 1,300 students from 66 schools who took part in the study, this exclusion was felt most among those whose parents were having financial difficulties.

“The well-off pupils don’t know that their less affluent co-students feel excluded from the group and are hiding their neediness,” said Children’s Council chairwoman Lisbeth Zornig Andersen in a report by Politiken.

Family counsellor Lola Jensen urged parents to buy their children expensive clothes if they can afford it. “If one’s child is at the bottom of the hierarchy in the class, there is no reason to let that child be stigmatised. In such cases parents should give in,” Lola Jensen argued.

According to child psychologist John Halse, however, giving a child everything it wants is not necessarily the solution. “Parents should stand tall and say: ‘You have other things to offer. Mummy loves you.’ In this way parents are acknowledging the child for what he or she is,” he told Politiken.

“Children must learn that they cannot both have their cake and eat it. Otherwise parents are doing them a disservice because as adults they will have a tough time when they cannot have everything,” Halse added.

Tessa Gjodesen, who studies the spending habits of children at the University of Southern Denmark, acknowledged that consumer goods play a major role in youngsters’ lives, but insisted that there are other ways to make friends.

“We see that children who do not want, or cannot have certain things, find their place in another way; for instance by being a good football player or good at singing,” she said. “But if there is nothing to compensate for the consumer goods, then it can be difficult to join the groups in the class,” she added.

Photo: Peter Hove OLESEN