Childhood Studies Children and Money
Margaret Echelbarger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0233


Money (usually interpreted as currency) is a cultural tool that helps organize ways in which we engage with one another. Learning what it is and how to use it are important developmental milestones. The study of children and money reflects the efforts and contributions of many researchers across several disciplines including psychology, sociology, social work, marketing, and anthropology—thus understanding how children develop their ideas about money, how these ideas change over time, and how children emerge as autonomous economic agents is an interdisciplinary endeavor. The work included in this bibliography covers topics ranging from when children come to know what money is and how to use it, to when and how children come to break into the market and recognize and follow its rules, to understanding the robustness of developmental trends across different populations of children. In this way, the work referenced below reflects both basic and applied efforts. This bibliography is organized into seven sections. The first, General Overviews on Children and Money, highlights key books on this topic that serve as good starting points when first approaching this research area. The second, Foundations of Money Understanding, centers on work examining the development of children’s basic understanding of money (e.g., what money is and how to use it). The third, Using Money: Spending and Saving, presents work examining how children come to use money in the real world and play economies (i.e., small markets created for laboratory studies). The fourth, Economic Socialization and Financial Literacy, highlights work examining the influence of early experiences on later financial health outcomes and behaviors. The fifth, Understanding Market Forces, centers on children’s understanding of economic causation (i.e., the effect market forces have on each other—for example, as demand increases, supply decreases, and price increases). The sixth, Money Cues and Decision Making, presents work documenting ways in which the presence of money influences behaviors. The seventh, Money and Culture, reports on the developmental trends across different populations of children. The purpose of this bibliography is to introduce the topic of children and money and set the stage for a deeper line of inquiry; it is in no way exhaustive. Related topics, such as children’s understanding of economic inequality, are not included; these require their own bibliographies. Additionally, with few exceptions, the work included focuses on studies and experiments involving children. For that reason, exclusive examinations of parents’ ideas about children and money are largely not included. In short, use this bibliography as a starting point to a much richer exploration of this topic.

General Overviews on Children and Money

Several books are dedicated to describing how children come to understand their economic world. The list in this section includes books by authors who appear several times throughout this bibliography and all offer unique insight into children’s development into autonomous economic agents. These books differ in their approach and foci. For example, Sonuga-Barke and Webley 2017 focuses more narrowly on children’s development of saving, whereas Berti and Bombi 1988 takes a broader view and focuses on children’s development of economic understanding. Faigenbaum 2005, perhaps, takes the broadest approach as, in this book, the author positions children’s economic understanding in the broader context of social development. Across these books, you will find that the nature of the proposed theories differs—some argue that children’s economic understanding moves through stages, whereas others propose theories that suggest children’s development of economic understanding moves along a continuum. In addition to this list of books, there are several journals which publish frequently on topics related to children and money. Chief among them is the Journal of Economic Psychology, in which many of the works cited below are published. Not included in this list are popular press books devoted to helping parents and children develop their financial skills (e.g., Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not) by Beth Kobliner [New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017]). However, there is a section dedicated to Economic Socialization and Financial Literacy, given the centrality of money understanding to those issues.

  • Berti, A. E., and A. S. Bombi. The Child’s Construction of Economics. Translated by G. Duveen. European Monographs in Social Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

    As with much of the work cited in this bibliography, Berti and Bombi examine questions that extend beyond children’s basic understanding of money, making connections to other economic concepts and economic socialization. The authors propose that children move through qualitatively different stages of economic understanding.

  • British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 1983–.

    As interest in the area of children and money grows, so too does the number of journals regularly reporting on this and related topics. The British Journal of Developmental Psychology, like others listed here, is home to many examinations of children’s understanding of money and economic concepts.

  • Child Development. 1930–.

    Work in this area published in Child Development often focuses more squarely on the topic of money and economic understanding among children, which contrasts with, for example, the Journal of Economic Psychology, where there are more articles related to adults.

  • Faigenbaum, G. Children’s Economic Experience. Buenos Aires, Argentina: LibroEnRed, 2005.

    Faigenbaum examines children and their economic understanding by walking through how children come to engage in the social world. In this way, this book offers take a holistic approach to understanding children and money by considering the building blocks of economic exchange such as reciprocity, ownership, and value.

  • Journal of Economic Psychology. 1981–.

    The Journal of Economic Psychology offers a good starting point for exploring topics related to children and money. Many of the articles included in this bibliography are published in this journal; there is also a special issue referenced in the section Money and Culture.

  • Lunt, P., and A. Furnham, eds. Economic Socialization: The Economic Beliefs and Behaviors of Young People. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1996.

    The contributions in this edited volume by Lunt and Furnham all center on how children come to understand and navigate the economic world. For this reason, the book goes beyond money understanding to include such issues as shopping, banking, and even poverty.

  • Marshall, D., ed. Understanding Children as Consumers. London: SAGE, 2010.

    In this edited volume, Marshall brings together a group of authors to share findings spanning children’s developing understanding of money, economic socialization, and the market. Additionally, this volume includes chapters on children’s understanding of brands and advertising.

  • Sonuga-Barke, E., and P. Webley. Children’s Saving: A Study in the Development of Economic Behavior. London: Routledge, 2017.

    Like Berti and Bombi 1988, this book is regularly cited in the work throughout this bibliography. Sonuga-Barke and Webley report on children’s developing understanding of their economic world and do so by closely examining saving. This book also includes commentaries from Berti and other experts in this area.

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