Influence of Family Communication Structure and Vanity Trait on Consumption Behavior: A Case Study of Adolescent Students in Taiwan

By Chang, Wei-Lung; Liu, Hsiang-Te et al. | Adolescence, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Influence of Family Communication Structure and Vanity Trait on Consumption Behavior: A Case Study of Adolescent Students in Taiwan


Chang, Wei-Lung, Liu, Hsiang-Te, Lin, Tai-An, Wen, Yung-Sung, Adolescence


INTRODUCTION

In the last few decades Taiwan's economy has been growing rapidly, its national income has steadily increased, and family income has seen substantial growth. Consequently, compared with a few decades ago, many families are spending more money resulting in a change in the family communication structure. Many parents give their children an allowance as compensation for not being able to be with them all the time. That amount of money an adolescent can spend is increasing yearly. Taiwan, like most industrialized Western countries, has an ever-increasing number of latchkey children. Their allowance averages approx. $135 a month (National Youth Commission, 1998), amounting to nearly 1 billion a year. Many parents send their children to cram schools to learn as many skills as possible, they are often tutored after school hours in Chinese, English, math and other subjects so that they can pass tests for entry into better schools. These parental expectations severely impact adolescents and result in specific consumption behaviors--an important factor for marketing theory and practice.

Research on social behavior of consumers shows that consumer socialization influences motivation, attitudes, and behaviors of adolescents (Carlson et al., 1994). In addition, communication between family members has a significant direct or indirect impact on adolescents' consumer behavior (Moore & Moschis, 1981). Therefore, different family communication structures can significantly impact adolescents' consumption motivation, attitudes, behaviors, and vanity, as does the mass media. It is believed that TV viewing encourages both physical vanity and achievement vanity, both of which are related to social, rather than economic motives for consumption (Moschis & Churchill, 1978).

Vanity has advanced the development of several products and services, and the demand for appearance-related products and services such as cosmetics, clothing, and body sculpture is increasing (Solomon, 1985, 1992). Physical appearance and achievement vanity are important in marketing, and advertisements stress such physical vanity as individual charisma. Advertisements are filled with achievements and status symbols. Being concerned about charisma may be a positive consumption behavior (such as in sports and consuming healthful foods. However, too much concern may result in poor behaviors such as not being able to free oneself from bad habits, food and drink disorders, and others (Schouten, 1991; Bloch & Richins, 1992; Hirschman, 1990). Consumption behavior resulting from vanity has roots in materialism--price-based prestige sensitivity, cosmetics usage, clothing concerns and membership in exclusive clubs (Netemeyer et al., 1995). Research in both achievement vanity and consumer behavior reinforces the importance of achievement vanity in several consumption behaviors and marketing activities like advertisement appeal and materialism. Belk (1985) noted that an individual may engage in conspicuous consumption to show that he or she has a drive for achievement. However, the increase in consumption capacity of Taiwanese adolescents creates a large market which is attractive to many businesses, yet there are few studies on vanity trait and consumption behavior. To fill this need, the present study applied consumer socialization theory as the theoretical foundation with adolescents as the subjects. The main objectives were to:

1. Study the relationship between family communication structure and vanity traits.

2. Investigate different traits in consumption behavior.

3. Discuss the implications for marketing theory and practice.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES BUILDING

Family Communication Structure

Family communication structure (FCS) denotes the frequency mode, and quality of communication (Moschis & Moore, 1979; Moore & Mochis, 1981). McLeod and Chaffee (1972) found that the family communication structure contained concept-orientation and socio-orientation. …

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