Academic journal article Adolescence

An Exploration of Taiwanese Adolescents' Impulsive Buying Tendency

Academic journal article Adolescence

An Exploration of Taiwanese Adolescents' Impulsive Buying Tendency

Article excerpt


Marketers have recognized the significance of impulsive buying. Retailers are continually trying to increase the number of impulsive purchases through product displays and store and package designs (Hoyer & MacInnis, 1997; Jones et al., 2003). In addition, contemporary marketing innovations, for example, 24-hour convenience stores, television shopping channels, and internet shopping, expand impulsive buying opportunities (Kacen & Lee, 2002).

Research on impulsive buying has increased during the last decade (Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Gardner, 1993). Impulsive buying is defined as "an unplanned purchase" that is characterized by "relatively rapid decision-making, and a subjective bias toward immediate possession" (Rock & Gardner, 1993, p. 3). It is described as more arousing, unintended, less deliberate, and more irresistible buying behavior as compared to planned buying behavior (Rook, 1987; Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Hoch, 1985). Further, higher impulsive buyers are likely to be unreflective, to be emotionally attracted to the object, and to desire immediate gratification (Hoch & Loewenstein, 1991; Thompson et al., 1990).

Consistent with research on impulsiveness in the psychology literature, recent studies in marketing assert that the impulsive buying tendency is a distinctive personal trait (Beatty & Ferrell, 1998; Puri, 1996; Rook & Fisher, 1995). For example, Rook and Fisher (1995, p. 306) suggest that "individuals' impulsive buying tendencies can be conceptualized as a consumer trait." Based upon the research literature (e.g., Beatty & Ferrell, 1998; Purl, 1996; Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Gardner, 1993), impulsive buying tendency can be defined as the degree to which an individual is likely to make unintended, immediate, and unreflective purchases. Furthermore, several scales have been developed to measure this tendency (e.g., Puri, 1996; Rook & Fisher, 1995; Rook & Gardner, 1993; Weun et al., 1998).

For adolescents, impulsive behavior has generally been viewed as counterproductive, and individual differences in impulsiveness were found to be related to a number of socially relevant behaviors, including aggression (Stanford et al., 1995), drug use (Stanford et al., 1996), pregnancy (Jones & Philiber, 1983) and HIV risk-related sexual behavior (Clift et al., 1993). However, in spite of this significant relationship, impulsive buying among adolescents remains relatively unexplored. Compounding the problem, adolescents are being more heavily targeted because of their increased spending potential (Simpson et al., 1998). Further, they are considered to be consumers who are not likely to be well informed, to comparison shop, or seek advice about their purchases (Jones et al., 2003).

Studies have emphasized that a variety of factors affect impulsive buying, including the consumer's mood or emotional state (Rook, 1987; Rook & Gardner, 1993), self-identity (Dittmar et al., 1995), and personal characteristics, in particular "age" (e.g., Bellenger et al., 1978; Wood, 1998). Wood (1998) found a non-linear relationship between age and impulsive buying in his United States adult sample. The relationship suggested that impulsive buying should increase slightly from ages 18 to 39, and decline thereafter. This is somewhat consistent with the finding of Bellenger et al. (1978) who noted that shoppers under age 35 were more prone to impulsive buying than those who are older. Also, studies on impulsiveness indicate that young persons score higher on measures of impulsiveness than do older people (Eysenck et al., 1985; Helmets et al., 1995; Rawlings et al., 1995). However, most of those studies were conducted with adult samples. For adolescents, variation in impulsiveness by age may be larger than for adults, since the adolescent development stage is noted for impulsivity (Kahn et al., 2002). However, investigation of impulsive buying by adolescents of different ages would be a valuable contribution to the literature.

In addition, impulsive buying is also related to gender (Dittmar et al., 1995), and income (Wood, 1998). Similarly, previous studies also were conducted mostly with adult samples; few of them included adolescents. Thus the present study's focus on adolescents should be a valuable addition to the literature.



Using a convenient sampling method, 514 Taiwan adolescents, ages 15 to 19, participated in this study. All of them were high school or college students in Taiwan.

Data Collection

A questionnaire containing fourteen items was developed as the survey instrument; it consisted of two sections. The first section contained five items to assess personal characteristics of subjects. The second section contained nine items to measure on a five-point Likert scale, the degree of impulsive buying tendency; these were based on the work of Rook and Fisher (1995). The Cronbach's alpha coefficient in the present study was 0.85, a satisfactory level of reliability.


Personal Characteristics

The five questions in the first section of the questionnaire provided the personal characteristics of the subjects: gender, age, pocket money, part-time job, and sources of family income. Table 1 indicates that the number of females was almost equal to that of males. Regarding pocket money available per week (in U.S. dollars), 39.5% of the adolescents had less than $13,23.9% had about $13-26, 26.5% had about $26-39), and 10.1% has more than $39). Although 16.6% of respondents had a part-time job, the others did not. In addition, 58.6% of the adolescents indicated that their man source of pocket money was from both father and mother.

Impulsive Buying Tendency

Findings from the second section of the questionnaire are listed in Table 2. The item "I buy things according to how I feel at the moment" reached the highest mean score (M = 3.85, SD = 0.92), and the item "Buying now, think about it later" had the lowest mean score on the impulsive buying tendency (M = 2.20, SD = 1.01).

Association Between Personal Characteristics and Impulsive Buying Tendency

The gender effect on impulsive buying tendency was examined by t-test (see Table 3). Analysis indicated a significant difference between genders on impulsive buying (t = 2.13, p < 0.05). The mean score for females on impulsive buying (M = 26.44) was significantly higher than that for males (M = 24.31), indicating that females engaged in more impulsive buying than did males. Dittmar et al. (1995) argued that females tended to engage in impulsive buying for more emotional reasons; thus, it is possible that female adolescents are more likely to be attracted to an object and to desire immediate gratification. This finding could be confirmed by the higher score by females on the item "I often buy things without thinking" (M = 2.75) than by males (M = 2.40, t = 3.48, p < 0.05). In general, the present study revealed that female adolescents tended to have a higher impulsive buying tendency, which is similar to the finding in adult samples by earlier research (e.g., Dittmar et al., 1995; Wood, 1998).

To explore the differences based on adolescents' age in impulsive buying tendency, one-way ANOVA was used (see Table 4. The results revealed a significant effect among 15- 19-year-olds (F(4, 509) = 2.776, p < 0.05). A post hoc test, LSD test, was used to determine the differences; 19-year-olds (M = 26.39) had the highest score on impulsive buying, which was significantly higher than that of the 15-year-olds (M = 23.89) and that of the 17-year-olds (M = 23.84). These results suggested that impulsive buying, in many cases, gradually increase with age.

In order to evaluate the influence of pocket money on impulsive buying, a one-way ANOVA was also used (see Table 5). A significant difference was found (F(3, 510) = 6.632, p < 0.01). A post hoc test, LSD test, was also used to determine differences based on amount of pocket money. Adolescents with less than $13 pocket money (M = 23.39) had the lowest score on impulsive buying, which was significantly less than those with $13-26 (M = 25.80), $26-39 (M = 25.81), and above $39 (M = 26.65). This indicated that adolescents' impulsive buying significantly increased as their pocket money per week increased.

Finally, no significant difference was found in part-time job and sources of family income for impulsive buying, as shown in Table 6 and Table 7.

The results of the present study indicate that personal characteristics such as gender, age, and pocket money, were associated with adolescents' impulsive buying tendency among Taiwanese adolescents. It is interesting to note that female adolescents engage in more impulsive buying than do males, and the tendency gradually increases between ages 15 to 19. In addition, when adolescents had more pocket money, impulsive buying significantly increased.

Adolescents' impulsive buying is particularly important since they are increasingly exposed to innovative marketing strategies. It is recommended that educators pay greater attention to this trend and develop guidelines to help adolescents spend money more effectively. Future research needs to explore the causes of impulsive buying and its related behaviors for adolescents.

Table 1

Personal Characteristics of the Sample

Personal Characteristic     n     %

  Male                     252   49.0
  Female                   262   51.0

Age (in Years)
  15                       103   20.0
  16                       111   21.6
  17                       102   19.8
  18                       105   20.4
  19                        93   18.1

Pocket Money
  NT$1201                  52   10.1

Part-Time Job
  Yes                       75   14.6
  No                       439   85.4

Sources of Family Income
  Father                   117   22.8
  Mother                    79   15.4
  Both                     301   58.6
  Others                    17    3.3

Table 2

Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for Impulsive Buying Tendency

Item                                               M      SD

1. I often buy things spontaneously.              2.91   1.15
2. "Just do it" describes the way I buy things.   2.76   1.10
3. I often buy things without thinking.           2.47   1.05
4. "I see it, I buy it" describes me.             2.65   1.15
5. "Buy now, think about it later" describes      2.20   1.01
6. Sometimes I feel like buying things on the     3.29   1.20
     spur of the moment.
7. I buy things according to how I feel at the    3.85   0.92
8. I carefully plan most of my purchases.         2.28   0.97
     (reverse coded)
9. Sometimes I am a bit reckless about what       2.53   1.20
     I buy.
Total                                             2.82   0.73

Table 3

Gender Differences on Impulsive Buying Tendency


                     Male       Female
Impulsive Buying   (n = 252)   (n = 262)

M                    24.31       26.44
SD                    6.39        6.58

t = 2.13, p < .05

Table 4

Age Differences on Impulsive Buying Tendency

                              Age (in Years)

Impulsive Buying    15      16      17      18      19

M                  23.89   25.13   23.84   25.54   26.39
SD                  5.83    6.34    7.33    7.33    6.87

F = 2.776, p < .05

Table 5

Pocket Money Differences on Impulsive Buying Tendency

                             Pocket Money

Impulsive Buying   NT$1201

M                   23.39      25.80         25.81       26.65
SD                   6.43       5.69          6.66        7.68

F = 6.632, p < .001

Table 6

Part-Time Job Differences on Impulsive Buying Tendency

                      Part-Time Job

                     Yes         No
Impulsive Buying   (n = 75)   (n = 439)

M                   25.52       24.84
SD                   6.53        6.58

t = 0.83, p > .05

Table 7

Sources of Family Income Differences on Impulsive Buying Tendency

                       Sources of Family Income

Impulsive Buying   Father   Mother   Both    Others

M                  24.45    25.94    24.52   24.18
SD                  5.65     6.72    6.88     5.82

F = 1.337, p > .05


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Reprint requests to Prof. Chien-Huang Lin, Graduate-Institute of Business Administration, National Central University, 300 Chung da Road, Chungli, 320 Taiwan. E-mail:

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