January 01, 2001

While being rich is still the number one fantasy among kids ages eight to 17, the allure of endless buying power seems to be waning, according to the 2000 Roper Youth Report, an annual syndicated research study focused on American kids, tweens and teens. That figure (56%) is down nine points from 1995, when 65% was a five-year high.

In fact, children today increasingly fantasize about helping those less fortunate than they are. The proportion of eight-to-17 year-olds daydreaming about helping others is up six points since 1995, to 37%. In the past year, the proportion of six-to-seven-year-olds with altruistic fantasies jumped 11 points.

"Faced with a robust economy for most of their lives, children today have the luxury of dreaming about helping others," says Carolyn Setlow, group senior vice president at Roper Starch Worldwide. "Our statistics suggest that the materialism of the late 20th century is giving way to altruism in the 21st century, offering us a glimpse of the dreams and fantasies of tomorrow's leaders."

Fewer eight-to-17-year-olds today than in the past daydream about what their futures will be like (38%), down from a five-year high in 1995 of 45%. This may be an indication of contentment with the present, adds Setlow.

In an era of increased global interconnectedness, more kids than before dream of seeing the world. More than one in four (43%) now envision traveling afar, up six points from only a year ago. The desire increases with age, with 37% of six-to-seven-year-olds (up 8 points from 1999), 41% of eight-to-12-year-olds (up 10 points), and 46% of teens 13-17 (up 2 points) dreaming of globetrotting.

In keeping with increased desires to "become" rather than "acquire," younger kids and tweens both appear to be more focused on differentiating themselves from their peers. Since 1999, there has been a significant increase in six-to-12-year-olds who dream of being smarter (46%, up 11 points), popular (32%, up 6 points), or artistic, e.g., a great artist, musician or writer (27%, up 4 points).

Across all age groups, dreams of power still seem to be more attractive to boys than girls. Boys are more likely than girls to fantasize about being a great athlete (53% vs. 22%); being strong (40% vs. 25%), running their own business (26% vs. 19%); being a powerful business person (21% vs. 12%); being a military hero (17% vs. 4%); or starting their own Internet company (12% vs. 8%).

Despite increasing prominence and power of women, girls' fantasies still cluster in more stereotypically female areas: being beautiful or handsome (39% of girls vs. 23% of boys); being a great artist, musician or writer (30% vs. 24%); or being a famous actor or actress (32% vs. 17%).

The research for the entire study was conducted face-to-face at home with a nationwide cross-section of 1,200 children ages 6 to 17, from March 4, to April 15, 2000.

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