Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Using the Life Course Paradigm to Explain Mechanisms That Link Family Disruptions to Compulsive Buying

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Using the Life Course Paradigm to Explain Mechanisms That Link Family Disruptions to Compulsive Buying

Article excerpt

This research examines compulsive buying as an impulse-control disorder, a form of maladaptive behavior believed to have its roots in early-in-life experiences of family adversities. Unlike previous research that has typically studied only the effects of family divorce on compulsive buying, this study examines the effects of disruptive family events within the broader multitheoretical life course framework. A sample of 327 young adults is used to test the hypothesized relationships derived from the main life course perspectives. The results show alternate paths leading to compulsive buying, beyond those uncovered in previous studies. By offering a broader overarching framework, the article shows how previous efforts to study compulsive buying can be improved, pointing to the value of the multitheoretical life course approach in understanding consumption phenomena.

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Compulsive buying has been viewed as a form of maladaptive behavior that affects the well-being of millions of consumers globally (e.g., Muller and de Zwaan 2004; Neuner, Raab, and Reisch 2005; Roberts 1998; Roberts and Jones 2001). It has negative consequences on consumers and their families, resulting in depression, unmanageable debt and lower satisfaction with life in general (e.g., Koran et al. 2006; Ridgway, Kukar-Kinney, and Monroe 2008). Given the known adverse consequences of compulsive buying, social workers and professionals in the field of family finance management need to understand the reasons consumers develop compulsive buying tendencies if they are to help consumers avoid and treat compulsive buying tendencies.

Little theory has been developed in this area to help understand how or why compulsive buying tendencies develop, although several possible explanations of its origins have been offered (e.g., Faber 1992; Faber et al. 1995; Hirschman 1992: Litt, Pirouz, and Shiv 2011; Rindfleisch et al. 1997). Most researchers, however, view compulsive buying as an impulse-control disorder that relates to other types of impulse-control disorders, such as binge-eating and alcoholism (e.g., Faber et al. 1995), that are viewed as deviant, antisocial, or maladaptive and have their roots in biological or genetic factors (e.g., neurological, chemical), psychological traits (e.g., low self-control), and sociological factors (e.g., early-life socialization experiences) (e.g., Burnett et al. 2011; Faber 1992; Faber and Christenson 1996: Faber et al. 1995; Hassay and Smith 1996; Litt et al. 2011: McLeod and Almazan 2003; Roberts 1998; Simons et al. 1998).

Given the broad landscape with respect to the etiology of compulsive buying, previous studies have suffered from a lack of consensus with regard to its conceptualization and measurement. Conceptually, compulsive buying has been viewed within a broad continuum, ranging from uncontrollable impulsive choices viewed as a result of the person's life experiences (e.g., Hirschman 1992) to addictions or pathologies (disease) due to consequences of programmed biological, genetic and chemical processes (e.g., Faber and Christenson 1996; Hassay and Smith 1996). As a result, researchers have viewed compulsive buying as a single-dimensional concept (Faber and O'Guinn 1992; Valence, d'Astous, and Fortier 1988). More recently, Ridgway and colleagues (2008) offered a more comprehensive conceptualization of compulsive buying by distinguishing between the impulse-control and obsessive-compulsive dimensions of compulsive buying, while others have distinguished between these two dimensions with respect to their etiology (e.g., DeSarbo and Edwards 1996; Hassay and Smith 1996). For example, DeSarbo and Edwards (1996) suggest that impulsive and compulsive buying differ in the underlying motivations for excessive shopping. Specifically, they are hypothesized to differ in the triggering stimuli for the behavior: impulsive buying is triggered by external stimuli (e.g., in-store, situational), whereas compulsive buying is triggered by internal factors (e. …

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