Nagging has become the norm for many American youth

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Alex Negelein admits that when there's something he really, really wants, he's willing to ask his dad for it "150 times."

The 9-year-old's pestering may be on the extreme side, but he's hardly alone. A new survey has found that, even when their parents say "no," nearly six of 10 young people keep nagging -- an average of nine times.

The survey, released Monday, also found that 10 percent of 12- and 13-year-olds said they ask their parents more than 50 times for products they've seen advertised.

Officials at the Center for a New American Dream, who commissioned the survey, call it the "nag factor." They say it shows that kids -- while annoying their parents -- are feeling pressure from peers to buy the latest products.

"They are being made to feel that if they don't have the right low-cut designer jeans, the right video game or the right designer watch, they aren't going to have a friend -- that they're going to be rejected by other kids, " said Betsy Taylor, executive director of the Takoma Park, Md.-based center, which promotes responsible consumption.

Of those polled, about a third said they feel pressure to buy certain products, and more than half said that buying those products makes them feel better about themselves.

When it comes to nagging, 55 percent said they can usually get their parents to give in.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, included the answers of 750 American youth, ages 12 to 17, who were contacted by phone last month. But experts say nagging is a habit learned much earlier.

Marian Salzman, chief strategic officer for the ad agency Euro RSCG, says about 60 percent of the young people the agency has interviewed for research said they knew how to manipulate their parents on "small things" before they started first grade.

Alex's dad, Chris Negelein, has instituted a rule: "Ask once, and only once." He says, with the help of counseling, Alex is learning to follow it.

And if he doesn't, he knows what happens.

"We have to leave the toy section," Alex says with a sigh.

As a reward for good behavior, Negelein takes his son to a Pokemon tournament near their home on Saturdays. That way, Alex can actually play with the cards he has, rather than just collect them and continually ask for more.

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