The Family Decision-Making Process: A Review of Significant Consumer Satisfaction/dissatisfaction Models

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper discusses various models and theories in the family decision-making process concerning consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction. This is of great importance because it is very possible that there may be some form of interaction between the satisfaction process and the decision-making context. The literature on family decision-making is also reviewed.

INTRODUCTION

Decision-making is a critical part of modern family life (Scanzoni & Szinovacz, 1980). It is also a central construct in models of consumer behavior (Engel, Kollat & Blackwell, 1968; Sheth, 1974; Howard & Sheth, 1969). Engel and Blackwell (1982) note that

   A problem exists for consumer researchers because although most
   purchase decisions are family decisions, most research about
   consumer behavior has been conducted with individuals. It hardly
   should be expected that an individual's attitudes, intentions, and
   other variables will always coincide or even be correlated very
   highly with those of the family. Yet most of the research
   literature implicitly makes such an assumption (p. 174).

Despite its apparent importance, couple decision-making has remained a relatively under-researched area in the marketing literature. In the area of decision-making, researchers concentrate mainly on individual decision-making (Davis, 1976). A major reason for this emphasis on individual rather than on family decision-making may be the belief that the family is generally a poor decision-making unit (Wright, 1974; Aldous, 1971; French & Raven, 1959).

Researchers have advanced many reasons to explain why the family tends to be a poor decision-making unit. Wright (1974), for example, noted that families tend to have lower decision-making ability than other types of organizations because, when compared to the environment that exists in other types of organizations, family decisions tend to take place in less than ideal environmental conditions. Aldous (1971) suggests that families tend to make poor decisions because they try to avoid submitting the problem to rigorous analysis or getting involved in discussions which will result in tension-evoking situations. In other cases, poor quality decisions may result from basing family roles on cultural norms rather than expertise (French & Raven, 1959). While these arguments seem plausible, some researchers have argued that these same characteristics enhance family decision-making (Kelly, 1979). In this respect, the maintenance needs of the family encourage cooperative behavior. Davis (1976) notes that the conclusion that the family is a poor decision-making unit may be the result of family studies which tend to focus on isolated problems instead of treating a problem as one of several interrelated problems that the family faces at the same time.

The interrelatedness of several problems can cause ineffective decision-making because the husband's and wife's definition or perception of a problem can be very different when the problem of concern happens to be related to other problems (Davis, 1976). A poor family decision, or no decision at all, may result because the spouses do not view the problem from the same perspective. Further, the solution advanced by one spouse may have some effect upon the other spouse. Davis (1976) found that family members usually have very different perceptions of the same problem and solutions to those problems.

PERSPECTIVES IN FAMILY DECISION-MAKING

Four major theoretical models guide most of the research into the family decision-making process: 1. resource theory, 2. social exchange theory, 3. role theory, and 4. the process-oriented model.

1. Resource theory. The beginning of formal research into family decision-making can be traced to the work of Herbst (1952). Much of the early research in family decision-making, however, relied on the resource theory model advanced by Blood and Wolfe (1960). …