It drives parents crazy, but retailers love it. When teenagers go shopping, they aren\'t happy with just any old brand. It has to be this make of jeans or that make of shorts.
When it comes to jogging shoes, only Nike will do, while if it\'s a jacket they need, it has to be a Tommy Hilfinger.
Concerned parents tend to react with perplexity: has the youth of today given in to mindless consumerism? Are they so brainwashed by slick advertising campaigns?
One thing is certain: nowadays children and adolescents in the developed world have a lot of spending power.
According to a market research carried out by the Institute for Youth Research (IJF) in Munich, approximately two thirds of all teenagers regularly receive an average of about 13 dollars pocket money from their parents.
Add to that 60 dollars worth of cash birthday gifts from various relatives and the same amount again at Christmas, and it is no wonder that in 1999, this age group registered a total annual "income" of 2.1 billion dollars, an increase of five percent over 1998.
Older adolescents boost this figure considerably through part-time work. The IJF claims that the 15 to 24 year age group earns a total of 48 billion dollars a year.
The advertising and retail industries long ago identified adolescents as a lucrative target group. They do not focus on teenagers alone-junior school pupils also have an increasingly important say in what their parents buy when out shopping.
"Children are maturing faster and are allowed to spend money on their own at an earlier age," says Ingo Barlovic from the market research institute Iconkids & Youth in Munich. "When they are buying very expensive items, the mother will accompany the child to the shop but she won\'t buy anything the child doesn\'t want."
Clothes are the root of many a family argument. "With trends changing so quickly, parents tend not to be very understanding when it comes to satisfying their children\'s whims and fancies," explains Barlovic.
"Anyone who grew up in the Seventies and was used to wearing a pair of Levi\'s for several years on end cannot understand why retailers feel they have to bring out something new every five months."
On the other hand, Barlovic cannot understand why parents are often incensed by teenagers\' stubbornness when it comes to picking out a pair of trainers: "It\'s completely natural for children to be so brand-orientated," he says.
Marianne Soff agrees: "Growing up is all about defining one\'s own identity," says the psychologist from the University for Educational Theory in Karlsruhe. And that process inevitably involves comparing and copying others. "To feel you belong to a certain group, you need distinguishing features," she explains, and that is where trendy brand names come into play.
Silke von Mueller-Schurig, a psychologist at the Institute for Youth Research, also believes it is quite normal for children to want to distinguish themselves from both younger children and adults.
That would explain some teenagers\' predilection for fashionable beers such as Magician "Corona". The youngest in the family drinks lemonade while the father prefers a traditional lager.
Also typical is adolescents\' tendency to want to "break the rules", as researchers into youth behavioral patterns describe the sudden desire, for example, to have themselves pierced. This also serves to shock the teenager\'s parents.
As they find it more and more difficult to distinguish themselves from adults, adolescents often adopt extreme tactics. Impractical platform shoes or unnecessarily wide flares are among the relatively harmless manifestations.
Of equally great importance is the need for involvement with one\'s contemporaries. "That starts with Teletubbies," says von Mueller- Schurig. "Any child who hasn\'t seen on TV what his friends have seen will feel left out of the conversation and will quickly assume the role of an outsider."
The older the children, the more importance is attached to what their friends and other schoolchildren think of them, particularly of their clothes. The wrong jacket can become a source of considerable embarrassment.
Adolescent fashions are not decided by the toy industry and advertising agencies alone. "Some brand names used to be known only on the music or skateboard scene," says Barlovic, "and now they have become popular without much of a marketing campaign."
And fashion does not necessarily have to be expensive, as witnessed by the success of the Swedish clothes chain, H&M.
When parents can no longer afford to indulge their children\'s fashionable whims, it is important they assert themselves and ask their children if they think their desired purchase is really absolutely necessary, advises Marianne Soff.
A vital part of every healthy upbringing is learning to discipline oneself and sometimes simply to do without, she says.