File #817: " - Disconnect Between Childhood Overindulgence and Adult Spirituality Study Poster Handout.pdf"


David J. Bredehoft, Ph.D., CFLE, NCFR Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN. 11.5.10

Definitions of Spirituality


―The spiritual tendency moves the
individual toward knowledge, love,
meaning, peace, hope, transcendence, connectedness, compassion, wellness, and wholeness.”
Young, Wiggins-Frame & Cashwell,
2007, p. 48

Overindulgence includes giving too much, over-nurturing, and too little
structure (Clarke, Dawson, & Bredehoft, 2004). All three have been found
to have negative effects on children lasting into adulthood (Bredehoft,
Mennicke, Potter, & Clarke, 1998). For children, overindulgence can affect
their personality development, self-concept, health, and relationship development (Bredehoft, Mennicke, Potter, & Clarke, 1998).

―A sense of connection forms a
central defining characteristic of
spirituality — connection to
something greater than oneself,
which includes an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence. Spirituality may involve perceiving life as higher, more complex or more integrated with one's
world view; as contrasted with the
merely sensual.‖ http://

In adulthood, childhood overindulgence is associated with problems in
parenting (Bredehoft, 2006; Walcheski, Bredehoft, & Leach, 2007), selfconcept, and dysfunctional thinking (Bredehoft & Leach, 2006) whereas
the level of intrinsic goals versus extrinsic goals have been found to affect
a person's learning, motivation, and personality (Kasser, 2002; Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006).
In addition, research has found that intrinsic goals are associated with
positive qualities such as self-acceptance, affiliation, community feeling,
and physical health (Kasser, 2002; Kasser & Ryan, 1993). This study focuses on the relationship between childhood overindulgence and life aspirations (extrinsic and intrinsic goals). Extrinsic life aspirations include
wealth, fame, and appearance. Intrinsic life aspirations include personal
growth, relationships, and community.
We hypothesize that childhood overindulgence leads to extrinsic life aspirations and disconnectedness—the antithesis to spirituality.



The sample consisted of 369 participants (80.5% female, 19.5% male; ages 14-81;
Mean age 38.25; Median age 22.00) from 37 states, Spain, France, Canada, Australia, Belgium, India, New Zealand, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom . Participants were recruited and accessed the study through the web at (56.9% from psychology classes at Concordia University
– St. Paul, 30.1% from visitors to the webpage, and 13.1% from speaking engagements). Students received bonus points for their participation in the study.

After participants read and agreed to the
consent form they answered a questionnaire consisting of demographic data, and
two self-report inventories: Overindulged
(Bredehoft, Clarke, & Dawson, 2002; Bredehoft, 2007), and The Aspiration Index
(Kasser & Ryan, 1993). Both inventories
have established reliability and validity.

Overindulged (Bredehoft, Clarke, & Dawson, 2002; Bredehoft, 2007) is a 14-item instrument designed to measure parental overindulgence from the
point of view of the child (of any age). Overindulged produces an aggregate score and three subscale scores: Too Much (too many clothes, privileges, toys, activities, and entertainment); Over-nurture (doing things for the child, and over-loving); and Soft structure (no chores, too much
freedom, allowed to dominate the family, not taught skills, no rules, rules were not enforced).


The Aspiration Index (Kasser & Ryan, 1993) measures people’s high-level life goals. The 104 question scale assesses two broad aspirations:
extrinsic aspirations and intrinsic aspirations
Extrinsic aspirations (aggregate score)
- Wealth (e.g., to be very wealthy, to have lots of expensive things, to be rich etc.)
- Fame (e.g., to have my name known by many people, to be admired by many people, to be famous etc.)
- Image (e.g., to be attractive, to look good, to wear the latest fashions etc.)
Intrinsic aspirations (aggregate score)
-Meaningful relationships (e.g., to have good faithful friends, to have intimate committed relationships, to have deep enduring friendships etc.)
-Personal Growth (e.g., to learn new things, to live a meaningful life, to accept myself etc.)
-Community Contributions (e.g., to work to improve society, to help others without receiving anything in return, to help others make their lives
better etc.)

Table 1
Correlations Between Childhood Overindulgence and Life Aspirations Scores
Life Aspirations

Figure 1: Path Analysis for Childhood Overindulgence
Variables Leading to Extrinsic Values in Adulthood

Total Overindulgence

Extrinsic Aggregate Score
Wealth Importance
Fame Importance
Image Importance



Too Much

Intrinsic Aggregate Score -.133**
Personal Growth Importance
Relationship Importance
Community Importance





Extrinsic Asp



*<.05; **<.01; ***<.001; ****<.0001






Soft Structure


Discussion and Implications
If "The spiritual tendency moves the individual toward knowledge, love, meaning, peace, hope, transcendence, connectedness, compassion, wellness, and
wholeness.” Young, Wiggins-Frame & Cashwell, 2007, p. 48
Then: Parents need to be aware that overindulging leads children down a pathway to life aspirations of wealth, fame, and image (materialistic values) or
Parents need to be aware that overindulging encourages disconnectedness and leads to the:
-indifference in the betterment of society;
-unwillingness in assisting people in need;
-unwillingness to make the world a better place;
-unwillingness to help people improve their lives except in
order to get something in return.
Over-nurture leads to Too Much. Too Much leads to Soft Structure. Soft Structure leads to Over-nurture. All three combined lead to Extrinsic life aspirations
of Wealth, Fame and Image .
This then leads to disconnectedness, the antithesis to spirituality.

Bredehoft, D. J. (2007). Reliability and validity findings for a measure of childhood overindulgence – Study 7. Poster presented at the 2007 National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, November 7, 2007, Hilton Hotel, Pittsburg, PA. Retrieved November 5, 2008, from
Bredehoft, D. J., Mennicke, S. A., Potter, A. M., & Clarke, J. I. (1998). Perceptions attributed by adults to parental overindulgence during childhood. Journal of Marriage and Family Consumer
Sciences Education, 16, 3-17. Available at:
Bredehoft, D. J., Clarke, J. I., & Dawson, C. (2001). Overindulgence, personality, family interaction and parental locus of control. Paper presented at the Minnesota Council on Family Relations
Annual Meeting, Hopkins, Minnesota. Available at:
Bredehoft, D. J., Clarke, J. I., & Dawson, C. (2002). OVERINDULGED. Indicators of overindulgence scale information is available from the lead author: C/O Concordia University – St. Paul, 275
Syndicate Street North, St. Paul, MN 55104; [email protected].
Bredehoft, D. J., Dawson, C. & Clarke, J. I. (2003). Relationships between childhood overindulgence, family cohesion and adaptability, self-esteem, dysfunctional attitudes and locus of control in
parents. Paper presented at the National Council on Family Relations Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Available at:
Bredehoft, D. J. (2006). Becoming a parent after growing up overindulged executive summary: Study 3. Retrieved November 5, 2008, from
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Clarke, J. I., Dawson, C., & Bredehoft, D. J. (2004). How much is enough? Everything you need to know to steer clear of overindulgence and raise likeable, responsible, and respectful children.
New York: Marlowe & Company.
Kasser, T. (2002). The high price of materialism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410-422.
Spirituality, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from on October 28, 2010.
Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Intrinsic versus extrinsic goal contents in self-determination theory: Another look at the quality of academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 41(1), 19-31.
Walcheski, M. J., Bredehoft, D. J., & Leach, M. K. (2007). Overindulgence, parenting styles, and parent sense of competence: Executive summary: Study 4. Retrieved November 5, 2008, from
Young, J. S., Wiggins-Frame, M., & Cashwell, C. S. (2007). Spirituality and counselor competence: A national survey of American Counseling Association members. Journal of Counseling &
Development, 85, 47-52.