Journal of Consumer Behaviour
/ Consumer Behav. 6: 203-217 (2007) ..••;•• ®wiLEY
Published online in Wiley InterScience ii...
204 Karin M. Ekstrom
Children can be expected to influence not
only their ow^n purchases and consumption,
but also those o...
Parental consumer learning 205
man et al., 1989a,b; Grossbart et al., 2002).
Ward (1974) defines reverse socialization as
...
206 Karin M. Ekstrom
Table 1. Sample
Selected family with children in Parents living in
Affluent area
Female Male
Less aff...
Parental consumer learning 207
answers between parents and children in the
few previous studies which have included
parent...
208 Karin M. Ekstrom
I think we would in some way have a more
restricted life if our children were not
around, if we did n...
Parental consumer learning 209
more, the results indicate that children used
referent power (French and Raven, 1959). A
pa...
210 Karin M. Ekstrom
read the instruction book and then we
show them how to do.
Also, the mother (#31, D, HA, child 20) sa...
Parental consumer learning 211
to reduce their consumption of fat. For
example, a mother had been influenced to
use less b...
212 Karin M. Ekstrom
which was intended. Previous consumer
research has not considered that people will
tolerate attempts ...
Parental consumer learning 213
other w^ould try to involve the children in the
decision. For example, a mother (# 15, D, H...
214 Karin M. Ekstrom
Finally, even though differences regarding
gender were noticeable in that daughters
dominated decisio...
Parental consumer learning 215
An interesting observation was that chil-
dren's attempts to influence parents can
sometime...
216 Karin M. Ekstrom
French JR, Raven BR. 1959, The bases of social
power. In Studies in Social Power, Cartwright D
(ed.)....
Parental consumer learning 217
Mussen PH, Conger JJ, Kagan J (eds). Harper and
Row: New York.
Quortnip Jens. 1994. Childho...
Ekstrom, k. (2007) parental consumer learning or 'keeping up with the children, journal of consumer behaviour, vol. 6 (4),...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Ekstrom, k. (2007) parental consumer learning or 'keeping up with the children, journal of consumer behaviour, vol. 6 (4), 203 217

849 views

Published on

0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
849
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
15
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Ekstrom, k. (2007) parental consumer learning or 'keeping up with the children, journal of consumer behaviour, vol. 6 (4), 203 217

  1. 1. Journal of Consumer Behaviour / Consumer Behav. 6: 203-217 (2007) ..••;•• ®wiLEY Published online in Wiley InterScience ii'^ (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/cb.215 ^«- Parental consumer learning or 'keeping up with the children' Karin M. Ekstrom* Centerfor Consumer Science, School of Business, Economics and Law, Goteborg University, Sweden • Children are socialized as consumers earlier now than any other time in history. The rapidly changing pace of society especially with regards to technology, information processing, transportation, etc. makes it possible for them to experience purchasing and consumption at a much faster rate than that of their parents. Children may possess knowledge which their parents lack and they may share their experience and knowledge and in so doing influence their parents. It can result in parents learning about con- sumption from their children, something which has not been sufficiently acknowledged by previous research. We purpose of this paper is to further the understanding of how consumption patterns and knowledge are transferred from children to parents. In-depth interviews carried out with 'children' of age group 13-30 show that they contributed information prior to and during thepurchase, but also afterwards by helping to instal or showing parents how to use a product. The adolescents and adult children had often introduced new products to their parents and made them aware of recent trends. Often they also seemed to deal more easily with new technology than their parents. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Introduction and Wackman, 1972) or 'pester power' (e.g. _, ., , • ,. J . Tufte, 1999). An increase in dual working and Children are socialized as consumers and ^ .,• . , . . . . . . . ^ . . one-parent lamilies may involve parents having exposed to the lntncacies of purchasing and , . . 1 . V.,J , . ,. ^, ° less time and result in children playing a more consumption at earlier ages than previous . 1 • u 1 • 1 J • • . _, , , . important role in helpmg to make decisions. generations. They are extremely brand con- ™. . c J 1 C , . . . . , , Time pressured parents of today may also feel scious and their importance both as current -i^ u » ...• t. • • i. , . . , guilty about not spending enough time with and prospective consumers is something ». . . 1^ j u c 1, ^ , . . ^ ^ their children, and therefore allow them more marketers have become more aware of (e.g. . „ TU • J J 1 L U T • J '.r^rv'. £> 1- , J J ^. influence. There is a tendency to delay child- Lindstrom, 2003; Sutherland and Thompson, ,, . ^ c i- 1. • i - u ^„„^. r. • u u c ^ beanng, and families w h o have children 2003). Previous research has referred to , . . . , . . ^ • 1 . . , , , . „ . , ., . J relatively late may be in a better financial children s influence as child power (Ward -^ • n u • u u -a ^ ^ situation to allow their children more mflu- ence. The fact that parents today also have fewer children may also increase the influence •Correspondence to: Karin M. Ekstrom, Center for Con- ^f g^ch child. Tufte (1999) postulates that this sumer Science, School of Business, Economics and Law, . , , , , . , , , Goteborg University, Box 600,405 30 Goteborg, Sweden, development may lead to children becoming E-mail: karin.ekstrom@cfk.gu.se 'dream children' or 'trophy children'. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  2. 2. 204 Karin M. Ekstrom Children can be expected to influence not only their ow^n purchases and consumption, but also those of their parents to a far greater extent than previous generations. The rapidly changing pace in our society regarding techno- logy, information processing, transportation, etc. makes it possible for children, younger as vell as adolescents and adult children, to experience purchasing and consumption at a rate much faster than that of their elders. A British study found that 52 per cent of the children underfiveyears of age, and 21 per cent of those under two, were capable of operating a videotape-recorder (Options, 1990), Chil- dren sometimes possess knowledge about purchasing and consumption that their parents lack. This generation gap can result in a situation where children share their experi- ence and knowledge w^ith their parents, and as a result, parents are influenced or learn different consumption roles from their chil- dren. Mead (1970) discusses the development of our society into a prefigurative culture: a culture in which adults learn not only from adults, but also from their children. Mueller (1958) found that the desire for innovation (defined as becoming interested in a nevi^ product before it attains widespread accep- tance) was higher among couples w^ith children than among those with no children. The purpose of this paper is to further the understanding of the transfer of consumption patterns and knowledge from adolescents and adult children to parents.' First, some theor- etical concepts are presented, followed by the results from an empirical study. Theoretical framework Parental learning and consumer socialization Research in consumer behavior has not sufficiently dealt with the fact that parents in their own consumption get influenced and Even though the focus in this paper is on the transfer from children to parents, it should be recognized that many other sources influence parents such as spouses, colleagues, media, etc. learn from their children. This is surprising since interaction, negotiation, influence and learning about consumption occur betw^een parents and children, in particular when they live together, but also throughout life. An exploratory study (Sorce et al., 1989) on middle aged children's influence on their elderly parents, indicates that over two thirds of the children influenced their parents by providing advice or information. Changing family struc- tures, increased geographical mobility, and new information technology may have led to new forms of interaction in families, but consumption is still a joining and dismantling power in the nexus of family ties. Research on learning within families focuses almost entirely on children learning from parents Gohn, 1999). Such unidirectional studies assume a simple asymmetrical causality model where parents shape children (e.g. Cromwell and Olson, 1975). The fact that parents also learn from their children is then not acknowl- edged. Even though the reciprocal nature of parent-child relations w^ere addressed long ago (e.g. Bell, 1968, 1971; Brim, 1957), it has not been covered well. White etal. (1971, p. 96l) state that 'as the parent socializes the child, he almost certainly as a consequence both teaches certain things to himself and also learns from the grooving child'. Other researchers (e.g. Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Tallman et al., 1983; Ziegler and Child, 1973) also emphasize that socialization occurs in the course of a relationship and involves learning as well as teaching. Studies on children's consumer learning (e.g. Carlson and Grossbart, 1988; Grossbart, Carlson and Walsh, 1991; Peracchio, 1992; Roedder ef«/,, 1986;Stampfle?flZ., 1978; Ward et al., 1977) or adolescent consumer learning (e.g. Churchill and Moschis, 1979; Moore and Stephens, 1975; Moschis and Churchill, 1977, 1978; Moschis, 1985; Moschis and Moore, 1979, 1982, 1985) have often been conducted in the context of consumer socialization. Also, the few existing studies on parents learning from their children in consumer behavior literature discuss consumer learning in the context of consumer socialization (e.g. Fox- Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10,1002/cb
  3. 3. Parental consumer learning 205 man et al., 1989a,b; Grossbart et al., 2002). Ward (1974) defines reverse socialization as children's influence on their parents' knowl- edge, skills, and attitudes related to consump- tion. The lack of studies is surprising, since consumer learning is expected to be a continuous process. It is through learning that we, children as well as adults, adapt to changes in the environment and develop as human beings. One reason for the lack of studies on parental consumer learning might be the predominant view on childhood and adult- hood over time, discussed next. Views on childhood and adulthood Research on consumer learning and consumer socialization of children has been strongly influenced by cognitive developmental theo- ries (e.g. Piaget, 1970). The prevailing view among these theories is that learning and socialization are assumed to be strongest during childhood. Childhood is looked upon as a transition from the incomplete to the complete Qohansson, 2003). This might explain the focus on children's rather than parent's consumer learning and socialization among earlier research even though both researchers in sociology (e.g. Brim, 1966, 1968; Vernon, 1972) and marketing (e.g. Ward, 1974) have recognized that socialization is a life long process. More recently, it has been argued that childhood should be viewed as a social construction (e.g. Johansson, 2000). Children are beginning to be seen as equal to adults (Tufte et al., 2003). This is illustrated in the United Nation's convention of children's rights from 1989 and also reflected in that the social sciences talk about children as actors, the humanities talk about children as creators, and the political sciences refer to children as citizens with democratic rights (Tufte et al., 2003). Quortrup (1994) distinguishes between human being and human becoming. A child who is looked upon as human being is given respect and considered competent. A child who is considered human becoming is a growing incomplete human being. Lee (2001) continues this discussion, but empha- sizes that he does not consider becoming as having less status. Instead, it represents the continuous changes we face in life. According to Lee (2001), w^e are all becomings, both children and adults. As a consequence, learn- ing and consumer socialization should be considered equally important for both children and parents. James and Prout (1997) point out that there exists no universal childhood because childhood cannot be distinguished from other variables like class, gender or ethnicity. They argue that there are childhoods instead of childhood since each childhood is unique. The fact that families are complex and differ from each other makes generalizations neither viable nor desirable. The unexpected nature of learning Another reason for the lack of research on parental consumer learning could be its unexpected nature. Research on learning in consumer contexts appears to often have an agent perspective. Consumer learning in families is, how^ever, probably seldom purpo- sive, but expected to occur as a result of family members' interaction w^ith each other. Ward et al. (1977), vv^ho studied child consumer learning, support this opinion, as does Moschis (1985) in a study on the consumer socialization of children. Ward (1974, p. 155) states: 'It seems that consumer socialization proceeds more through subtle social learning processes, rather than through purposive and systematic parental training'. Neither children nor parents are probably fully aware of parental consumer learning or socialization. The implicit pattems of family communication need to be con- sidered in family studies (e.g. Sillars and Kalbflesch, 1987). It is also important to acknow^ledge direct and indirect consumer learning. Direct learning can imply that a person learns something by being told some- thing while indirect learning is learning by observing. The latter can occur by vi^atching Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Joumal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10,1002/cb
  4. 4. 206 Karin M. Ekstrom Table 1. Sample Selected family with children in Parents living in Affluent area Female Male Less affluent area Female Male Grammar school 7th grade 8th grade 9th grade High school 1st year 2nd year 3rd year 20 years old 25 years old 30 years old 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child I chUd [ child 1 child I child 1 child 1 child I child [ child I child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child 1 child another person or what is referred to as observational learning. It can also happen when watching ^vhat happens when someone else behaves. A parent may become aware of and learn about a product by being told or shown how to use a product or from seeing his/her child using a product. Retroactive socialization The concept 'retroactive socialization' was coined by Riesman and Roseborough (1955), implying a child can leam consumer-related skills from peers and media and then influence his/her parents w^ith those skills. Children and parents consumption experiences differ at home, watching TV or using the Internet, at school, w^hen shopping or being with friends. This might result in transfer of consumption pattems and knowledge. Moschis (1976) found a positive relationship between the number of consumer-related courses taken at school and the adolescent's propensity to discuss consumption w^ith parents. A study discussed in the Marketing New^s (1992) indicates that one third of the parents had changed their shopping habits (i.e. both learning to avoid and to purchase products) because of the environmental-related infor- mation learnt from their children who had studied it in school. In summary, previous research has not sufficiently recognized that parents learn about consumption from their children. Studies on consumer learning and consumer socialization have focused on children rather than parents. Also, research has often been based on cognitive developmental theories and there- fore assuming learning to be strongest during childhood. There is a need to reconsider this and to look at learning as an on-going social construction throughout life. Method Semi-structured in-depth interviev^^s w^ere con- ducted in 36 families in Sweden's second largest city, Goteborg. Interview's were chosen in order to get a more in-depth understanding of parental consumer learning. Research on family consumption has mainly used quanti- tative methods, w^ith a few exceptions (e.g. Commuri and Gentry, 2005; Palan and Wilkes, 1997). An affluent area (18 families) and a less affluent area (18 families) with expected differences in socioeconomic variables were chosen. In total, 72 interview's were conducted since the child and the parent(s) were interviewed separately. The divergence in Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10,1002/cb
  5. 5. Parental consumer learning 207 answers between parents and children in the few previous studies which have included parents and children (e.g. Belch et al., 1985; Foxman et al., 1989a,b) points to the import- ance of including both. All but four of the interviews took place in the families' homes. It gave a picture of the family's living conditions and the family members w^ere expected to be more relaxed. Three families w^ere interview^ed at the university and one family in their family office. The sample was based on children's age and randomly selected from class lists as well as from official personal registers and is pre- sented in Table 1. Table 1 shows that the sample consisted of families w^ith children in the 7th, 8th, and 9th years of grammar school,^ families with children in high school,' and families with 'children' w^ho were betw^een 20 and 30 years old. The focus on consumer leaming and socialization made it interesting to study adolescents and adult children in particular. In Sweden, it is not uncommon that 'children' between 20 and 30 years old live at home, due to the housing shortage in bigger cities. Only five families interviewed had no children living at home. An equal number of each gender was selected. The actual family composition in each family w^as not know^n to the interview^er before visiting the family. Thirty of the 36 families had two to four children. The focus on the parent-child relation and the scope of the study made it necessary to limit the number of persons interviewed even though the ideal situation would have been to include and interview all family members. However, despite the fact that only the child in the selected age group was interviewed, the interviewer asked about all the children in the family in order to get a more comprehen- sive picture. It also happened during the interviews that the parents and the child interviewed referred to the other children in the family. Since family structure w^as not monitored, the sample consisted of 31 two-parent families and five one-parent families. Both parents were interviewed together in 19 of the 31 two- parent families and for the rest only the mother.'* In one-parent families, the parent living with the child was interviewed. The interview guide covering questions on durable goods, convenience goods, shopping goods, services, leisure activities, and other issues related to purchasing and consumption w^as pre-tested in three other famUies. There was no order regarding who w^as interview^ed first; the parents or the child. Each interview took approximately 1.5-2 hours. All the interviews were conducted by the researcher, who after each interview^ w^rote a description of the impressions, and later transcribed the inter- views verbatim. Results The results are presented according to differ- ent themes identified during the analysis, followed by a discussion on household characteristics. Abbreviations are used when presenting the results such as most (28-36), many (19-27), several (10-18), and few (1-9) families. These should not be regarded as a desire to generalize the results, but be seen as informative, merely clarifying the results. Awareness of new^ products and trends The interviews indicated that children had often introduced and made their parents aware of new trends (e.g. clothes) or relatively newly launched products (e.g. new spices, new types of pasta). A father (#5, D, MA, child 17^) said: In Sweden, children begin 7th grade at the age of 13. 'in Sweden, children begin high school at the age of 16. The reason given during the interview was that the fathers did not have time to participate in 12 of the 31 two-parent families. Since many of the two-parent families were dual working families, there might be other reasons as well such that they felt less interested in the study or less obligation to participate. 'The number indicates the family interviewed (1- 36 families were interviewed), D: dual parents, DS: dual parents with one stepparent, S; single parent, HA: high affluence, MA: middle affluence, LA: low affluence, and the age of the child interviewed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Joumal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  6. 6. 208 Karin M. Ekstrom I think we would in some way have a more restricted life if our children were not around, if we did not have this reciprocal exchange. I still think that they make us feel a littleyounger, and that we areforced to keep up with development and trends even if our children are in no way extreme regarding trends. They probably tell us about things that are trendy among young people even if they do notfollow the trends themselves, they do make us more aware of it. In many families, the parents had been introduced to new music by their children and started to like it. Parents in a few families had, for instance, leamt to like rap, reggae, and rock music played on television. A mother said that the idea of listening to music played on MTV w^ould never have occurred to her if her son had not introduced her to it. The situation for influence differed in that parents w^ere sometimes introduced to and told what to listen to w^hile at other times they were merely exposed to their children's music. Parents were also inspired by trips taken by their children. In a few families, the children had introduced their parents to a sporting activity, for example, water-skiing, windsurfing, down- hill skiing, and aerobics. Parents in most of the families were also influenced with regards to cooking. In many families, the parents had leamt to cook the dishes introduced by their children. Several families indicated that the children liked to try new^ recipes. Children w^ere described as being interested and not afraid of trying new^ things. For example, a mother (#14, DS, LA, child 15) said regarding children's introduction of new dishes: children try cooking dishes which I do not cook. If I make a mistake, Ifeel bad for a long time, but they don't. Other examples involved wine and restau- rants. In one family (# 8, D, HA, child 30), the children had introduced new types and higher quality wine. In the same family, the parents had also been introduced to new restaurants when they were abroad: Our children are a little more courageous when it comes to visiting restaurants, we do not choose. We have leamt front them that it can be a good restaurant even though it does not really look like a restaurant from the outside. In another family (# 22, D, HA, child 25), parents who were introduced to new^ restau- rants said: 'If wego out and eat at a new restaurant, it is our children who have discovered if. This illustrates that children sometimes open doors. In a few^ families whose children owned mountain-bikes, the parents w^ere now^ considering purchasing such bikes themselves. Peters (1985) found in a study on adolescents as socialization agents to parents, that children had large influence on sports, personal care, and leisure. The fact that children make parents aware of new products and trends has, however, not been discussed sufficiently by previous research. Expert and referent pow^er Children contributed information in all the families influenced when the parents had purchased a boat, stereo, automobile, bicycle, or camera. Children had also contributed information in more than half of the families infiuenced vi^hen the parents had purchased a television, fiirniture, satellite dish, or compact disc player. One family referred to their son as "researching the market," as he collected information and analyzed it before the rest of the family w^ent to the store to make a purchase. The interviews indicate that children used expert power (French and Raven, 1959) for some decisions, for example, technically complicated products. Expert pow^er was also noticeable w^hen children had informed their parents about fashion and trends. Further- Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sotis, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  7. 7. Parental consumer learning 209 more, the results indicate that children used referent power (French and Raven, 1959). A parent may behave in a certain way to identify with his/her child or compare and judge whether the child would be supportive or not when making a decision. For example, a parent who wants to feel young may dress like his/her child or dress like his/her child suggests. Parents in most families w^ere influenced regarding clothes, fashion aware- ness and music. The interviews indicate also that the parents asked for advice regarding hair-style. For example, a daughter (# 4, D, HA, child 15) said: Mum always wants advice regarding her hair-style. Both my brother and I always get to say what we think. For example, when she should have aperm or how she is going to have the perm or if she is going to perm, her hair. If she is going to have highlights or whatever she is planning to do, then we always give advice. So it is just about the whole family who lives in mum's hair." A few families mentioned that the children had infiuenced their parents to change their hair-styles. However, it also happened that children did not want their parents to change hair-styles. For example, a son (#29, DS, MA, child 17) did not want his mother to highlight her hair and had infiuenced her not to continue doing it. The mother said: / know thefirst time I colored my hair. Now I am grey-haired, but I sotnetimes use highlights and then my son says: But, mum, you cannot look like that. It does not suit you... you should look like a mum, he told me spontaneously. You should not look like Madonna. The results confirm that children often provided information both prior to, during, and after the purchase (by showing the parents how to use a product). A parent who lacks knowledge or seeks information is probably more w^illing to be infiuenced. Also, it is possible that a child who feels that he/she can contribute knowledge is more anxious to infiuence and sees to it that the parent makes a satisfactory purchase. Previously, Kim et al., 1990 found eighth grade students' perceptions of expert power to be significantly related to their perceived influence in decisions invol- ving major products for the family's use. Showing how to use a product In most of the families interviewed, the children had shown their parents how to use a product. Examples of products spon- taneously recalled during the interviews were videotape-recorders, televisions, watches, computers, microwave ovens, clock radios, compvuer/TV-games, and food processors. Some parents had leamt to use the product on their own, w^hile other parents continued to ask their children for advice. Overall, chil- dren's infiuence was strong for products which were technically complicated. It seems as if some children dealt more easily with technology than their parents. For example, a daughter (#36, D, HA, child 16) continuously helped her mother to install the channels on the car radio. A mother (#26, D, HA, child 13) whose children more easily used the remote control for the stereo said: The children manage the remote control very easily, but I have to think carefully before I can use it. It also takes much longer for me to record music. It is much easier for the children to use such things; they are more used to it than we are. Again, the pattem appeared that children showed interest and did not seem afraid of trying new things. One daughter (#31, D, HA, child 20), for example, referred to technical things in general and said: It isprobably more so that we children are thefirst ones who examine how it is going to work and then we teach our parents. We Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Joumal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  8. 8. 210 Karin M. Ekstrom read the instruction book and then we show them how to do. Also, the mother (#31, D, HA, child 20) said that her children show^ed more interest in how^ things w^orked in general: They are much more interested in such things; when we purchase new things, for instance, how it works and things like that. I do not especially enjoy learning such things. I do what I have to do. Some parents were not interested in learn- ing, for example, a son (#32, D, HA, child 25) who had showed his father how to operate the microwave oven and the videotape-recorder, referred to his parents saying: "/ do not think they are interested in programming. They count on me. I am often at home and they know it will be done right" The father had leamt how to tum the videotape recorder on and off and put a tape in and take it out, but could not program the videotape recorder. In another family (#31, D, HA, child 20), the father could program the videotape recorder, but not very w^ell. The mother did not know^ how^ to program it and said: It is simpler to tell the children: please program it for me. And then the children say: Can you never ever learn? But then I say: I do not want to learn. Overall, in many families, the children show^ed their parents how^ to operate a videotape recorder. A father said that he and the children often sat together and tried to figure out how new things w^orked and then told the mother. In a few families, children infiuenced their parents to read instructions better. A daughter (#36, D, HA, child 16) said: Mum usually reads instruction books. Dad only does it sometimes. He loves to just switch it on and does not read any instructions thinking he knows it all. He presses some buttons and then every- thing goes wrong. Sometimes I can get him to read the instruction books or usually I just push him away and say: now I will do it, otherwise everything will go wrong. Children in another family had taught the mother how to play computer games and written instructions so that she could play even w^hen they were not around. A few families who did not have their children living at home said they telephoned their children to ask for advice regarding, for example, compu- ters, printers or videotape recorders. Further- more, a few families indicated that chUdren sometimes found 'hidden' functions or altema- tive ways to use products which their parents had not previously discovered. The role of family members helping each other navigate in a society with increased technological com- plexity is an underdeveloped topic in con- sumer research. Values, health, and environmental issues Parents in several families had been infiuenced regarding values related to purchasing and consumption. For example, in a few^ families, the parents had been influenced to allow^ them- selves more purchases, more entertainment, to become more modem or open-minded. A father (#2, S, HA, child 14) expressed: Of course the children keep up with parts of life much better than I can, which influences us all. Parents in a few families had been infiu- enced not to consume certain things and gave as examples being infiuenced not to visit McDonalds, and not to purchase furniture made from rainforest w^ood. Aspects such as health and environment vv^ere also mentioned. Parents in a few families had been infiuenced Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  9. 9. Parental consumer learning 211 to reduce their consumption of fat. For example, a mother had been influenced to use less butter w^hen cooking. In another family, a daughter shared what she had learnt in school about eating habits and would tell her parents if they ate something that was unhealthy. A son (#29, DS, MA, child 17) who had been involved in his mother's attempts to loose weight by introducing aerobics at home and telling her to eat healthier said: / managed to get her to lose 6Kilos. And all because of aerobics at home on the living room floor. But at the same time, I have told her that now she really has to eat well, otherwiseI will not be happy. I also told her that now you have to take care of your eating habits otherwise we will quit the aerobics. She hasprobably eaten healthier since then, for example, salads, and stopped eating sweets and chips and such things. The interview with the mother confirmed this, but indicated also that the doctor had told her to exercise because of problems w^ith her back. Parents in a few families had been influenced after their children had discussed environmental issues or participated in an environmental project at school. A daughter (# 9, S, HA, child 17) described how her brother influenced their mother to start recycling batteries and newspapers when he was work- ing on a school project in ninth grade. It illustrates that school can play an important role in transferring knowledge to parents. Another mother (#13, D, MA, child 16) who influenced said: / have a daughter who is 13 years old and she is very aware of such things. A person should go to the recycling center. My daughter has probably been influenced at school One father was influenced to stop smoking when there was a lot of propaganda against smoking in his children's school. Also, a few families indicated that children attempted to influence the parents to stop smoking, particu- larly when it was discussed at school. For example, a mother (#36, D, HA, child 16) said her daughter used to ask her why she was smoking, particularly when smoking was discussed at school. Even though these results are similar to previous research (Moschis, 1976; Riesman and Roseborough, 1955), show^ing that children transfer kno^edge to parents from school, it has not been discussed sufficiently in consumer research. Also, research has not discussed that children influence parental values. An exception is Peters (1985), w^ho found that adolescents had made their parents more tolerant toward people in general, others' opinions, teenagers, and music. Backfire Too many attempts to influence can some- times backfire. A daughter's (#25, S, LA, child 25) continuous attempts to infiuence her mother to stop smoking resulted in that the mother became even more resistant to stop smoking or cut down on her smoking. The daughter talked about health and cancer risks and had infiuenced the mother to smoke with the balcony door open. Also, the mother had to smoke on her daughter's balcony when visiting her. The mother said: / have been irritated several times. I am very much aware of the fact that it is not good (foryour health). It is not, but I like to smoke. The phenomenon has previously been called a 'boomerang effect' by Wilke (1986, p. 700) implying that '.. .people resist the infiuence more than they would have, had they not felt their freedom to be threatened'. This is based on a theory by Brehm (1966) called 'a theory of psychological reactance'. Bumkrant and Cousineau (1975) and Clee and Wicklund (1980) also refer to the boomerang effect as producing behavior just the reverse of that Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  10. 10. 212 Karin M. Ekstrom which was intended. Previous consumer research has not considered that people will tolerate attempts to influence, or actual influence only up to a certain point. When this 'threshold' has been exceeded, children's attempts to influence or actual influence can sometimes backfire, making the parents less susceptible to influence. Explicit and implicit patterns of family communication Inflvience w^as both direct and indirect and differed between families as w^ell as within families from time to time. For example, while children in one family had told their mother that it was time for new wallpaper a mother in another family w^as indirectly inspired to change her interior decoration when visiting her daughter. Influence regarding movies was often direct in that the children recommended movies to their parents. A daughter (*28, DS, MA, cbild 20) said: / always see the movies before my parents. I always say which movies are good, I always do that. We (the children) always say to ourparents: You should see that one and that one. So I really do influence. The whole..almost 100 per cent Tbe fact tbat influence often appears to be more indirect in families w^as implied by a fatber (# 32, D, HA, cbild 25) wbo stated: / wonder what my daughter would think about these clothes. wben sbe went shopping for berself. Parents w^ere also influenced by seeing w^bat tbeir cbildren wore. Another mother (*10, D, HA, child 16) said: / think that I dress morefashionably now because I have them and also see their clothes. I maybe would not keep up with the trends otherwise. Now I know through my children what is fashionable... In a few^ families, tbe parents bad tbemselves been influenced to purchase fasbionable jeans brands wben accompanying tbeir cbildren to purchase jeans. Furtbermore, parents in many families indicated tbat tbey borrow clotbes from tbeir cbildren. For example, a motber (# 28, DS, MA, cbild 20) wbo did not like to go sbopping said her daugbter often purcbased clotbes to sbare witb ber. Also, tbe cbildren in tbe same family often reminded botb parents about tbe need for new clotbes (for tbe parents). Tbe interviews indicate tbat borro^v- ing clotbes was often a reciprocal process between parents and cbildren. Tbe results point to implicit patterns of family communi- cation (e.g. Sillars and Kalbflescb, 1987). Tbis bas not been studied sufficiently in previous research and one reason, apart from being difficult to determine, could be tbat previous researcb on family researcb bas predominantly used surveys. The children may not influence verbally, but people adapt when they have children. We adapt automatically, maybe faster than we would if we had not had any children. Then we would have continued in our old ways. Anotber example of indirect influence was wben a parent adopts fasbion styles or clotbes tbat tbe cbildren prefer ber/bim to wear w^itbout being told so. A motber (#15, D, HA, cbild 18) said sbe often tbougbt: Children as equals Tbe interviews witb tbe one-parent families indicate tbat parents and cbildren seemed to bave more of a friendsbip relation tban a parent-cbild relation, and tbey often discussed purcbases and consumption togetber. It appears as if tbe cbildren in tbe one-parent families studied often took parental roles in family decisions. How^ever, a similar pattern was also found for two-parent families. If one spouse was not interested in a decision, tbe Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  11. 11. Parental consumer learning 213 other w^ould try to involve the children in the decision. For example, a mother (# 15, D, HA, child 18) asked her children for advice regarding interior design, because her husband was not interested at all. Another mother (*34, D, LA, child 14) said also that her husband did not notice changes and therefore she asked her daughter regarding the interior of the home: And there is no point in asking my husband because he does not notice when I hang new curtains' hi one family (#30, D, MA, child 25), the mother did not like to shop for clothes for her husband together w^ith him since there w^as never anything he liked. Instead a daughter (22 years old) sometimes went shopping with the father to give him advice. The interviews showed also that mothers and children sometimes shopped together for clothes for the fathers. These results indicate that it is not sufficient to determine children's influence based on family structure, one must also consider other factors, such as parental interest in a particular issue. The fact that parents and children sometimes form alliances when one of the spouses is not interested in something that is going to be purchased has not been explored sufficiently in previous research. The results show that children are not just absorbers of know^ledge, but that they also are providers and equals. Bates and Gentry (1993) found the same phenomenon in their study on single parents. Household characteristics Affluent families allow^ed their children more influence than families living in less affluent areas. This corresponds w^ith previous research (e,g, Moschis and Mitchell, 1986), Affluent families may perceive lower financial risk. Also, such families often have more opportunities for consumption and thereby children have a larger number of opportunities to infiuence. Furthermore, living in a special environment may also reinforce particular behavioral pat- terns, A few families mentioned that family behavior among children's peer groups living in the same area affected the interviewed families' purchases and consumption. For example, parents in one family said that they felt pressured to purchase a satellite dish in order for their children to keep up with their peers in school when discussing programs on satellite TV, In a majority of the families interview^ed, the parents w^ere w^ell educated. Parents were highly infiuenced in about half of the families w^ith w^ell-educated parents. It was inferred from the interviews that families with a concept-oriented communi- cation structure (i,e, they encourage children to discuss and develop their own ideas) allow their children more infiuence than families with socio-oriented communication structure (i,e, children have learnt to avoid controversy and not to argue). This corresponds with previous research (e,g, Foxman et al., 1989a), Many of the families appeared to have a concept-oriented commvmication structure and it is possible that such families are more interested in participating in this type of study. Iniluence increased with age. Children become, with increasing age, more knowl- edgeable and parents are more likely to consider them trustworthy. In a few families, children between 17 and 19 did not want to accompany their parents to McDonalds or go shopping for clothes together, because they felt embarrassed to be seen with their parents. At that age, children may want to liberate themselves from their parents and they may care less about their parents' purchases and more about their ow^n. It was interesting to notice that 'children' between 20 and 30 years old had a great deal of infiuence. One reason could be that many of them still lived at home. Onlyfivefamilies interviewed had no children living at home and infiuence was lower in these families than the others. One reason could be that the frequency of interaction, and hence the opportunities for infiuence, is expected to be lower w^hen parents and children do not live together. Also, it is possible that children who do not live at home are less interested in infiuencing than children who live at home. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Joumal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10,1002/cb
  12. 12. 214 Karin M. Ekstrom Finally, even though differences regarding gender were noticeable in that daughters dominated decisions regarding interior design and appeared to be more interested in both mother's and father's clothes, and sons seemed more involved in many technical durable items, it was overall the children's interest, know^ledge and situation which determined their involvement and infiuence. Conclusion and future research In-depth interviews with parent(s), adoles- cents and adult children in 36 families confirm that parents leam about consumption from their children. Children contributed infor- mation in relation to purchases, but also afterwards helping to install or use the products purchased. At times, they seemed to deal more easily with technology than their parents. The wider assortment of products and services, as a result of increased competition and deregulation (e,g, telephone and electri- city companies), and increased technological complexity of products (e.g. mobile phones, computers), has made consumer choice more difficult. If children have the knoivledge, they may sometimes serve as important contribu- tors to alleviate their parents from often complex and time consuming decision making processes. This may be of interest to both consumer policy makers and marketers. The study show^s that children play a role in diffusion of innovations to parents. It may not always be easy to determine whether con- sumer learning has occurred or whether it is some type of 'keeping up with the children's effect' based on a similar idea to the 'keeping up w^ith theJoneses', While visibility and group norms are the determining factors for the latter, visibility, family norms and social pressure determine the former. Consumption may be a joining link and reduce the genera- tional gap betw^een parents and children. To keep up with the children's consumption could also be a result of social pressure, A parent who is infiuenced by his/her children's consumption may in some cultures be per- ceived as child oriented or representing a modern family. In Sweden, it is considered 'normal' to involve children in family de- cisions, something which was not the case years back. Children's participation in family decision-making illustrates more democratic families. Also, different political decisions indicating greater child-orientation per se are noticeable, for example, the office of a special ombudsman for children 'Bamombudsman' that was established in Sweden some years ago. The study indicates that children not only absorb knowledge, but that they are providers and sometimes even equals. The relations between parents and children often seemed to be more like a friendship relations than parent-child relations, A reason could be that adolescents and adult children w^ere inter- viewed. Recent debate in Sweden has dealt with whether relations between parents and children resemble too much of a friendship relation. Critics argue that there is a lack of authority among parents, A Danish psycholo- gist. Bent Hougaard (2005), uses the term 'curling parents' to describe parents who do everything to make their children's childhood as smooth as possible. In other w^ords, they let their children decide and it results in a lack of respect which may affect the relations between children and adults negatively, both at home and in school. In Russia, I encountered the attitude of 'the child as a dictator', implying a child who has too much infiuence on parents. In China, children are sometimes refer- red to as 'little emperors', implying children are spoiled and have enormous infiuence. It is interesting to refiect upon how children's participation in family decision-making is per- ceived in difi'erent cultures. Do they partici- pate, contribute or interfere in their parent's consumption? Do infiuence from children increase w^ith age, as indicated in this study, and is learning from 'children' perceived as positive or negative? A child who is allowed to participate may feel more satisfied, but may also feel too much responsibility at a too young an age. It is also possible that an adolescent or adult child who is expected to participate in his/her parent's consumption decisions may feel burdened. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10,1002/cb
  13. 13. Parental consumer learning 215 An interesting observation was that chil- dren's attempts to influence parents can sometimes backfire, that is, making parents less susceptible to influence. Furthermore, the study shows that children transfer knowledge from their school to their parents. This has not been discussed sufficiently in consumer research. Since sponsoring of school material is common, it is relevant to discuss the impact on children, but also on parents. Parents are indirectly exposed to sponsored school material through their children. It is relevant to ask to what extent marketers and edu- cationalists should be allowed to use children intentionally to reach the parents? The study illustrates transfer of consumption patterns and knowledge from adolescents and adult children to parents. Influence was strongest when children lived at home, but future research need to consider the implicit pattern offamily communication, negotiations, transfer and translation of knowledge both between family members who live together and those who do not live together. This requires ethnographic methods, which are also expected to benefit the needed theoretical development in this field of study. The impact of technology, for example, e-mail and mobile phones, on family communication, transfer of consumption patterns- and knowledge between generations, is also an interesting area for future research. Acknowledgements Comments on earlier versions of this paper made byJim Gentry, the editors, and the anon- ymous review^ers are gratefully acknow^ledged. References Bates MJ, Gentry J. 1993. Keeping the famUy together: how we survived divorce. In Advances in Consumer Research, 21, Allen C, Roedder John D (eds). Provo, UT: Association for Consu- mer Research; 30-34. Belch G, Belch MA, Ceresino G. 1985. Parental and teenage child influences in family decision vtvak- mg. Journal of Business Research 13: 163-176. Bell RQ. 1968. A reinterpretation of the direction of effects in studies of socialization. Psychological Review 75: 81-95, Bell RQ. 1971, Stimulus control of parent or care- taker behavior by offspring. Developmental Psy- chology 4: 63-72. Brehm JW. 1966.^ Theory of Psychological Reac- tance. Academic Press: New York. Brim OG. 1966. Socialization through the life cycle. In Socialization After Childhood: Two Essays, Brim OG, Wheeler S (eds). John Wiley & Sons: New York; 1-50. Brim OG. 1957. The parent-child relation as a social system: parent and child roles. Child Development 28: 343-364. Brim OG. 1968. Adult Socialization. In Socializa- tion and Society, Clausen J (ed.). Little, Brown & Co: Boston. Bronfenbrenner U. 1979. The Ecology of Human Development; Experiments by nature and design. Harvard University Press: Cambridge. Bumkrant RE, Cousineau A. 1975. Informational and normative social influence in buyer behavior. Journal of Consumer Research 2: 206-215. Carlson L, Grossbart S. 1988. Parental style and consumer socialization of children. Journal of Consumer Research 15: 77-94. Churchill GA, Jr, Moschis GP. 1979. Television and interpersonal influences on adolescent consu- mer learning. Journal of Consumer Research 6: 23-35, Clee MA, Wicklund RA. 1980. Consumer behavior and psychological reactance. Journal of Consu- mer Research 6: 389-405. Commuri S, Gentry JW. 2005, Resource allocation in households with women as chief wage earn- ers. Journal of Consumer Research 32(2): 185-195, Cromwell RE, Olson DH, 1975. Multidisciplinary perspectives of power. In Power in families. Sage Publications: New York; 15-37. Foxman ER, Tansuhaj PS, Ekstrom KM, 1989a. Family members' perceptions of adolescents' influence in family decision making. Journal of Consumer Research 15: 482-491, Foxman ER, Tansuhaj PS, Ekstrom KM. 1989b. Adolescents' influence in family purchase de- cisions: a socialization perspective. Journal of Business Research 17: 159-172. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  14. 14. 216 Karin M. Ekstrom French JR, Raven BR. 1959, The bases of social power. In Studies in Social Power, Cartwright D (ed.). Institute for Social Research: Ann Arbor, Michigan; 150-167, Grossbart S, McConnell HS, Pryor S, Yost A, 2002, Socialization aspects of parents, children, and the internet. In Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 29. Broniarczyk SM, Nakamoto K (eds). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 66-70. Hougaard B. 2005. Curlingfordldrar och service bam - En Handbok i bamuppfortran. Pan: Stockholm. James A, Prout A. (eds). 1997, Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood. The Falmer Press: London, Johansson B, 2000. Kom och at, jag ska bara do' fdrst... Datom i barns vardag. Etnologiska fore- ningen i Vastsverige: Goteborg. Johansson B. 2003, Bam som aktorer i konsum- tionssamhallet. In Mediebarndom.m.en: Artikkel- samling basertpd en konferense i Trondheim, 27-28 mars, Selmer-Olsen I, Sando S (eds). Dron- ning Mauds minne: Trondheim. John DR. 1999. Consumer socialization of children: a retrospective look at twenty-five years of research. Journal of Consumer Research 26: 183-213, Kim C, Hanjoon L, Asit S. 1990. Adolescent's power and perceived influence in family purchase de- cisions. In Developments in Marketing Science, Proceedings of the thirteenth annual confer- ence of the Academy of Marketing Science, Dunlap BJ (ed.). Louisiana: New Orleans, vol. 13 (April), 25-29. Lee N. 2001. Childhood and Society; Growing up in an Age of Uncertainty. Open University Press: Buckingham. Lindstrom M. 2003. Brandchild. Kogan Page Lim- ited: London. Marketing News, 1992, Kids teach parents how to change their buying habit, (March) 2, Mead M. 1970, Culture and Commitment; A Study of the Generation Gap. Natural History Press/ Doubleday and Co. Inc.: New York. Moore RL, Stephens LF. 1975. Some communi- cation and demographic determinants of adoles- cent consumer learning. Journal of Consumer Research 2: 80-92. Moschis GP. 1976. Acquisition of the Consumer Role by Adolescents. Unpublished doctoral dis- sertation. Graduate School of Business, Univer- sity of Wisconsin, Madison. Moschis GP. 1985. The role of family communi- cation in consumer socialization of children and adolescents. yoMrn«/ of Consumer Research 11: 898-913. Moschis GP, Churchill GA, Jr. 1977. Mass Media and Interpersonal Influences on Adolescent Con- sumer Learning, in AMA Educators' Conference Proceeding 41: 68-73. Moschis GP, Churchill GA, Jr. 1978. Consumer socialization: a theoretical and empirical analysis. Journal of Marketing Research 15: 599-609. Moschis GP, Mitchell LG. 1986. Television advertis- ing and interpersonal influences on teenager's participation in family consumer decisions. In Advances in Consumer Research, 13, Lutz RJ (ed.). Association for Consumer Research: Utah, 181-186. Moschis GP, Moore RL. 1979. Decision making among the young: a socialization perspective. Journal of Consumer Research 6: 101-112. Moschis GP, Moore RL. 1982. A longitudinal study of television advertising effects. Journal of Con- sumer Research 9. 279-287, Moschis GP, Moore RL. 1985. Racial and socioeco- nomic influences on the development of consu- mer behavior. Advances in Consumer Research 12: 525-532. Mueller E. 1958. The desire for innovations in household goods. In Consumer Behavior; Research on Consumer Reactions, Clark Lincoln H (ed.). Harper and Brothers Publishers; New York, 13-37, Options. 1990. Today's under-fives; the facts. November 12-15. Palan KM, Wilkes RE. 1997, Adolescent-parent interaction in family decision making. Journal of Consumer Research 24: 159-169, Peracchio LA. 1992. How do young children learn to be consumers? A script processing approach. Journal of Consumer Research 18: 425-440. Peters JF. 1985, Adolescents as socialization agents to parents. Adolescence 20(8): 921-933, Piaget J, 1970. The stages of intellectual develop- ment of the child and Piaget's theory. In Read- ings of Child Development and Personality, Copyright © 2007 Jolrn Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb
  15. 15. Parental consumer learning 217 Mussen PH, Conger JJ, Kagan J (eds). Harper and Row: New York. Quortnip Jens. 1994. Childhood Matters. Social Theory, Practice and Politics. Aldeshot: Avebury. Riesman D, Roseborough H. 1955. Careers and Consumer Behavior. In Consumer Behavior, vol. 2: The life Cycle and Consumer Behavior. Clark Lincoln (ed.). New York University Press: New York, 1-18. Roedder John D, Wliitney JC. 1986. The develop- ment of consumer knowledge in children: a cognitive stmcture approach./owrna/ of Consu- mer Research 12: 406-417. Sillars AL, Kalbflesch PJ. 1987, Implicit and explicit decision making strategies in couples. In Dyadic Decision Making, Brinberg D, Jaccard J (eds), Springer-Verlag: New York, 179-214, Sorce P, Loomis L, Tyler PR, 1989, Intergenerational influence on consumer decision making. In Advances in Consumer Research, vol, l6. Srull TK (ed.). Provo, UT: Association for consumer research, 271-275. Stampfl RW, Moschis GP, Lawton JT. 1978. Con- sumer education and the preschool child. Jour- nal of Consumer Affairs 12: 12-29, Sutherland A, Thompson B, 2003. Kidfluence. McGraw-Hill: New York. Tallman I, Marotz-Baden R, Pindas P. 1983. Adoles- cent Socialization in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Planning for Social Change. Academic Press: New York, Tufte B, 1999, Genom tjat har barnen tagit makten bland storkonsumentema, Sydsvenskan, lorda- gen den 6 febmari. Tufte B, Kampmann J, Hassel M. 2003. Bomekul- tur, et begreb i bevaegelse, Akademisk forlag, Vernon GM. 1972. Human Interaction, 2nd ed. The Ronald Press Inc.: New York, Chapter 26. Walsh A. 1991. Consumer socialization and frequency of shopping with children.Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 19: 155-163, 66-70. Ward S. 1974. Consumer socialization./owma/ of Consumer Research 1: 1-16. Ward S, Wackman DB. 1972. Children's purchase influence attempts and parental yielding. Jour- nal of Marketing Research 9: 316-319. Ward S, Wackman DB, Wartella E. 1977. How Children Learn to Buy: The Development of Consumer Information Processing Skills. Sage Publications: Beverly Hills, Califomia. White RM, Foner A, Hess B, Toby ML. 1971. Socia- lization for the middle and later years. In Hand- book of Socialization Theory and Research, Goslin DA (ed.). R. McNally and Co.: Chicago, Illinois. Wilke WL. 1986. Consumer Behavior. John Wiley and Sons: New York, Ziegler E, Child IL. 1973. Socialization and Person- ality Development. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.: Reading, Massachusetts. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, July-August 2007 DOI: 10.1002/cb

×