Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Family Communication Patterns and Marketplace Motivations, Attitudes, and Behaviors of Children and Mothers

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Family Communication Patterns and Marketplace Motivations, Attitudes, and Behaviors of Children and Mothers

Article excerpt

Given the continued growth of the youth market (e.g., McNeal 1990; Sellers 1989; Swasy 1989) and children's influence in family decision making (e.g., Belch, Belch, and Ceresino 1985; Foxman, Tansuhaj, and Ekstrom 1989), consumer socialization research is important. Study of consumer socialization processes may contribute to a better understanding of family consumption behavior; inter-generational influence, consistency, and change; and the impact of social trends on consumer behavior (Ward 1974). In addition, consumer socialization research may provide insights on how children acquire motivations, attitudes, and behaviors (MAB)(1) about the marketplace.


Children's consumption skills are influenced by many socialization agents including parents, peers, and television. Because parents play a primary role in the socialization of offspring (Moschis 1985; Roberts 1973; Schaefer and Bell 1958; Smith 1981), parental influence during the consumer socialization process may be one way by which children acquire MAB.

This study explores the relation between parental MAB and family communication patterns (FCP).(2) While previous research has examined adolescents' FCP and their MAB views (e.g., Moschis and Mitchell 1986), much less work has been devoted to mothers' MAB. This research directs attention to mothers because they often act as primary socialization agents (cf., Carlson and Grossbart 1988) and therefore, they may influence the MAB of their children. The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of FCP in the MAB influence process.

Specifically, this study examines mothers' materialistic tendencies, business and advertising views, shopping preferences, consumption motivations, and sources used to acquire marketplace information. This research also investigates the relation between mothers' market-place MAB and the FCP they employ. In addition, adolescents' predictions of their mothers' consumption motivations are compared across FCP groups. While a few studies give examples of intergenerational (dis)similarity (e.g., Belch, Belch, and Ceresino 1985; Hill 1970; Moore-Shay and Lutz 1988), they offer little explanation for congruence, or lack thereof, among parents and offspring on MAB. Prediction accuracy is suggested as one mode for tapping the extent of intergenerational influence. In sum, the research presented provides examples of mothers' marketplace views, adolescents' predictions of their mother's MAB, discussion of how FCP may serve as a mechanism for intergenerational influence, and implications for consumer educators.


Intergenerational Influence

Intergenerational research with a consumer behavior focus began in the 1970s. Hill (1970) found that only extreme levels of consumership (i.e., degree of preplanning action and fulfillment of plans) tend to hold over more than one generation. Miller (1975) observed a similar pattern in a game-simulation study: parents and children share continuity in terms of unfulfilled plans and impulsive consumer behavior. In an earlier study, Arndt (1972) noted similarity on some marketplace MAB (e.g., brand loyalty and favorite store types) among college students and their parents.

More recently, Moore-Shay and Lutz (1988) observed more mother-daughter correspondence on brand preferences and shopping strategies than on abstract beliefs about the marketplace. In spite of these findings, Moore-Shay and Lutz cautioned against drawing conclusions about learning processes underlying intergenerational influence. As these researchers noted, indices of parent-child agreement in isolation are not particularly appropriate criteria for determining intergenerational influence because parents' and children's views are measures of unique experiences. Rather, Moore-Shay and Lutz as well as Chaffee and McLeod (1968) advocated using prediction accuracy as an indicator of communication effectiveness between two people. …

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