The Commercialization of Childhood


Commercialism has left its mark on all aspects of children’s everyday lives today. It constitutes a shared world of experience, permeating relations between children and within the family. The article discusses the possibilities of an in-depth analysis from an ethnological perspective. One possibility is to study commercialization from the children’s perspective as practice, social activity, or lifestyle. This is exemplified primarily with children’s computer games. Another possibility is to study in a historical perspective how consumerism has been gradually introduced, established, institutionalized, and finally made into a seemingly self-evident part of the children’s world. The authors discuss how the process could be studied through archival sources such asadvertisements and pricelists. The article concludes with a discussion of the new images of family relations and children’s competences that emerge from the commercial media. In advertisements for computers, children are presented as competent and superior. In television series, parents are often portrayed as pathetic, as clumsy fathers and nagging mothers, while the children are enterprising and crafty. What does that say about actual changes in family relations and problems in today’s families?

How to Cite

Johansson, B. & Brembeck, H., (1997) “The Commercialization of Childhood”, Ethnologia Europaea 27(1), 15-28. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Barbro Johansson (Gothenburg University)
Helene Brembeck (Gothenburg University)



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