Mothers' Communication Orientation and Consumer-Socialization Tendencies
This study examines parent-child communication patterns and mothers' consumer-socialization tendencies. Results indicate mothers' concept-orientations are related to number of goals, discussing advertising, coviewing, coshopping, children's influence, yielding, and granting children consumer independence. In contrast, socio-orientations are related to limits on children's TV exposure and refusing request. Following charges by consumer groups about effects of marketing activities (especially TV advertising) on children, many consumer-socialization studies were conducted to learn how children acquire consumer knowledge, or to provide data to help formulate more effective corporate and public policy (Ward 1974). This research has primarily focused on children's responses to influence attempts by various consumer-socialization agents, but has given less attention to variations in mothers' socialization tendencies, i.e., orientations and behaviors with regard to children's consumer socialization (exceptions include Carlson and Grossbart 1988; Moschis 1985). To provide more insight into mothers' roles, this study focuses on mothers as socialization agents. As a part of a larger investigation (Carlson 1985; cf. Carlson and Grossbart 1988), this research examines relationships between mother-child communication patterns and mothers' goals for children's consumer soicalization, efforts to mediate effects of media exposure interaction with children, and responses to requests.
This research makes two contributions. First, communication-pattern research in consumer behavior has relied on responses from children [typically adolescents; in two studies Moschis and Mitchell (1986) and Foxman, Tansuhaj and Ekstrom (1989) did ask adolescents about parents' communication patterns and parents about children's consumer roles in the family]. This study broadens communication-pattern research by investigating the maternal view of parent-child communications with younger children (grades K-6). Second, it examines a number of specific-consumer socialization tendencies which have not been studied in a consumer communication-pattern context, and demonstrates their connections to mothers' general consumer-communication behavior.
Investigators have used general socialization research to develop theoretical frameworks that identify two major classes of influence in the consumer-socialization process: environmental and cognitive factors (Moschis and Moore 1979; Roedder, Roedder, and Whitney, Jr. 1986; Ward, Wackman, and Wartella 1977b). Environmental factors include socialization agents such as family members, peers, and mass media. Cognitive factors, generally considered age-related abilities, are often interpreted from Piaget's perspective on children's relative stages of development. While not directly determining responses in specific situations, e.g., to a store display or commercial (Calder, Robertson, and Rossiter 1976), in combination, these factors influence the rate at which children acquire knowledge and skills which guide their responses to marketing-related influences.
Of the environmental factors which impact the consumer-socialization process, mothers are usually the most pervasive and important influence (Abrams 1984; Aldous 1974). Also, mothers have been cited as contributing to their children's adult consumption patterns (Alsop 1988). Mothers typically control moneys available to children and act as gatekeepers for purchases of products and services children desire (Ward 1971). However, consumer research on mother-child relationships has usually been conducted from children's perspectives (Moschis 1976) or has proceeded from the direction of children's influence attempts on parents (Mehrota and Torges 1977). Fewer studies have focused on differences in parental attempts to influence children's consumer socialization.
Consumer socialization has typically been assumed to proceed through subtle interpersonal processes rather than via direct, purposive consumer training (Ward 1974). Yet, recent evidence suggests parental attempts to influence children are related to parental concern and involvement (Grossbart and Crosby 1984), and that some mothers assume a more overt role in their consumer-socialization efforts (Carlson and Grossbart 1988). These mixed findings on the true nature of the consumer-socialization process suggest a need for further research.
Research indicates parent-child consumer-socialization relationships vary, depending on such factors as: parent child-centeredness and children's assertiveness (Berey and Pollay 1968); parent socialization style (Carlson and Grossbart 1988; Crosby and Grossbart 1984); family group interaction (Reid 1979); children's roles and conflict in family decision-making (Belch, Belch, and Sciglimpaglia 1980; Jenkins 1979); and parent communication orientation (Moschis 1985). The socialization literature on parent-child communication provides a framework for understanding these differences.
Family Communication Patterns. Family communication pattern research in consumer behavior (cf., Moschis 1985) is adapted from work on political socialization (Chaffee, McLeod, and Atkin 1971; McLeod and Chaffee 1972; McLeod and O'Keefe 1972). Although methods and measures have varied, similar communication orientations have been identified in both consumer and political contexts. These so-called patterns of communication are based on two uncorrelated dimensions of communication structure in families (Figure 1). Parental messages characterized as socio-oriented promote deference to parents, and monitoring and controlling of children's consumer behavior. A second dimension, labeled concept-oriented, reflects parental messages which encourage children to develop their own skills and competence as consumers. Earlier political-socialization socio and concept scales focused on children's deference to parents and children learning to express their own views. While shifting this focus, Moschis and his associates validated the new measures against previous items via internal consistency, factor analysis, and correlations of family communication patterns with perceived social utility motivations for media use (Moschis and Moore 1978, 1979; Moore and Moschis 1981). Following the earlier political socialization approach, they combined these dimensions into a typology of four distinct communication-pattern profiles (Laissez-faire, Protective, Pluralistic, and Consensual).
Laissez-faires emphasize …