Power and Influence in decision-making in families: Child focused perspectives from 21st century families

Ben Kerrane, 2008

This thesis investigates the factors which affect the influence processes of children within twenty-first century families. Six family stories are presented, collected through a series of phenomenological interviews and family observation. These family stories contain the views of multiple family members in order to capture the polyphony of voices within families. Children, therefore, are repositioned as valuable and reliable research participants, with their voices given equal weight alongside other family members. This is in stark contrast to many family studies within the existing consumer behaviour literature. Drawing on literature from the sociology of the family, family microenvironments are introduced to shed greater light on the various influence strategies which children use. Unilateral and bilateral child influence strategies are identified. The children’s ability to deploy bilateral influence strategies, in coalitions with other family members, relates to the positive nature of his or her family microenvironment. Family micro-environments embrace those environments created by parents/guardians (paternal microenvironments) and siblings alike (fraternal microenvironments). The heterogeneity of these microenvironments provides important clues as to the success or resistance that the child’s influence strategies meet with.

Family consumer microenvironments are also introduced, recognising that as a child inhabits his or her own unique niche in the ecology of their family this has implications for his or her consumer socialisation. Different environments, therefore, exist within the same family in which children have different opportunities to acquire consumer skills and discuss consumption issues. The implications of family consumer microenvironments suggest that current models of consumer socialisation, which assume that the family represents a homogenous environment in which the consumer socialisation process takes place, needs to be revised in order to take account of the heterogeneous nature of family environments, and family consumer microenvironments.