Cross, Gary. (2010) “Valves of Adult Desire: The Regulation and Incitement of Children’s Consumption.”


Cross points out the confusion that results when parents want to control children’s consumption and desire for goods (close down the valve of consumption) but at the same time parents enjoy giving gifts and pleasing their children with consumer goods (opening up the valve of consumption.)


Advertisers did not frequently target children or urge them to pester their parents until after WWII:

“For the first half of the twentieth century, advertising to children was very limited.  It was viewed either as an interference in the parents right to control their offspring’s desires or a waste of money and time because children had little to spend and presumably little influence over the purchase decisions of their elders” (pg. 17).

After WWII, parents became concerned with how children were being aggressively targeted by advertisers ad petitioned for regulation in the late 60s and 70s.   However, Regan deregulated children advertising in the 1980s which led to a proliferation of program Length Commercials (PCs).  However petitions to stop cigarette advertising were successful in the 1970s – 2000s.  This closes down the valve of desire.

But why do children still desire consumer products despite their parents attempt to constrain it??  Parents projected their own nostalgia and needs on children by giving them gifts.



See below


Often Cross is not clear about his sources.  This is more of a theory that is not backed up by historical accounts from parents or children.


This is a key text for the history of children’s consumption.


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