Television Advertising and Interpersonal Influences on Teenagers' Participation in Family Consumer Decisions

George P. Moschis, Georgia State University
Linda G. Mitchell, Georgia State University
ABSTRACT - This paper presents the results of a study designed to test the effects of television advertising and interpersonal communications on the teenager's consumer behavior. Unlike previous studies, however, the effects of such communication processes on teens are evaluated in the context of household decision making. Specifically, the research examines the effects of television advertising, family and peer communications about consumption on the child's participation in household decision making.
[ to cite ]:
George P. Moschis and Linda G. Mitchell (1986) ,"Television Advertising and Interpersonal Influences on Teenagers' Participation in Family Consumer Decisions", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13, eds. Richard J. Lutz, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 181-186.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13, 1986      Pages 181-186

TELEVISION ADVERTISING AND INTERPERSONAL INFLUENCES ON TEENAGERS' PARTICIPATION IN FAMILY CONSUMER DECISIONS

George P. Moschis, Georgia State University

Linda G. Mitchell, Georgia State University

ABSTRACT -

This paper presents the results of a study designed to test the effects of television advertising and interpersonal communications on the teenager's consumer behavior. Unlike previous studies, however, the effects of such communication processes on teens are evaluated in the context of household decision making. Specifically, the research examines the effects of television advertising, family and peer communications about consumption on the child's participation in household decision making.

INTRODUCTION

Previous research on the effects of communications has focused either on the youth's consumer behavior and socialization or on second-order consequences. The first type of research usually deals with the effects of interpersonal communication and advertising on the youth's consumption-related cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors (e.g., Adler 1977). The second deals with subsequent effects of these communications on others and their behaviors. For example, research has examined the effects of advertising on the child's product requests from parents and parental yielding as a result of these requests (Adler 1977; Henderson et al. 1980; Ward and Wackman 1972). Considerably less attention has been devoted to the examination of second-order consequences of commercial communications on family decision making. The limited research on the effects of second-order consequences of commercial communications focuses on the outcomes of parental denial (e.g., parent-child conflict, child's disappointment) rather than on family decision-making processes.

Although critics charge advertising with creating "selling agents" within the home by persuading the child to request products s/he sees advertised, little evidence exists to support the contention that such second-order influence extends to household consumer decisions. Studies of household decision making are usually confined to spousal influence (e.g., Kollat and Blackwell 1983). Although some studies have investigated the influence of children in household decisions (e.g., Szybillo et al. 1977), such influence has not been investigated as a second-order consequence of the child's exposure to persuasive communications and other influences outside the home. Studies of advertising effects on the child's requests and parental yielding, on the other hand, are mostly confined to products consumed by the child rather than products consumed by the entire family (e.g., Henderson et al. 1980; Ward and Wackman 1972).

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Research on the effects of communications on the consumer behavior of the youth has been based primarily on conceptual and theoretical models of socialization. For example, communication researchers have examined the effects of cognitive development of the child's evaluation of advertising messages (Adler 1977). Similarly, consumer behavior researchers have investigated the effects of mass media interpersonal communications on the development of consumer behaviors (e.g., Moschis and Moore 1982; Ward and Wackman 1971).

When consumer behavior of the youth is approached from a socialization perspective, the emphasis is placed upon sources of consumer information- often known as "socialization agents"Cinfluencing the development of the individual's values, norms, and behaviors. Such development or learning of ten occurs in various social settings defined by the person's socio-demographic environment.

Although the outcomes of socialization may include changes in or the development of values, attitudes, and behaviors, several aspects of such learning have consequences on the youth's family (Riesman and Roseborough 1955) . Specifically, results of learning effects from socialization agents on the youth's family may be in the form of product requests, information seeking, or even influence and eventual modification of parental behaviors. In the context of household decision making, the influence of children may conceivably be at the stages of need recognition, information, seeking, product evaluation. and/or actual purchase.

The general research hypo thesis in this study is that the extent of the child's influence on the family decision process is conditioned by selected socialization processes and antecedent variables defining the child's social environment.

HYPOTHESES

Research in consumer socialization suggests three important agents: family, television, and peers (e.g., Moschis 1981; Ward 1974).

Television

Television advertising effects are often assessed either at the individual level or at the interpersonal or group level. With respect to the first type, one finds studies of TV advertising effects on perception, attitudes, and actual behavior of the viewer. TV advertising effects have also been studied in terms of how they may affect the behavior of individuals other than those exposed to advertisements. For example, research has examined television advertising effects in a two-step flow of communication/influence; and more recently, research on children and adolescents examined children's influence attempts as well as parental mediating role of television advertising (e.g., Adler 1977; Moschis and Moore 1982).

If advertising plays an important role in family decision making by influencing the child who, in turn, influences household decision making, one would expect the youth's exposure to advertising messages to be reflected in his/her greater participation and influence at various stages in the decision making process:

H1: Television advertising viewing is positively related to the youth's propensity to play a more influential role than his/her parents in: (a) mentioning the need for products, (b) discussing purchase of products, ( c) deciding what should be purchased, and (d) actually buying products.

Family. Family influences on the consumer behavior of young people is of ten viewed in the context of interpersonal communications. These communications include learning processes such as reinforcement (positive and negative), modeling, and social interaction which often incorporates both reinforcement and modeling. Most of the studies of consumer socialization have used the social interaction mechanism in the form of parent-child communication about consumption (Moschis 1985).

While the frequency of family communication about consumption often fails to predict the expected outcome, measures of communication structures and patterns of interaction were found to be good predictors of the youth's consumer behavior (Moschis 1985). Analysis of family communications about consumption and other matters has consistently found two relatively uncorrelated dimensions of communication structure (McLeod and Chaffee 1972). The first (which is analogous to the types of social power) is called socio-oriented, the type of communication that is designed to produce deference and to foster harmonious and pleasant social relationships at home. The child in homes characterized by such a communication structure may be taught to avoid controversy and to repress his/her feelings on extra-personal topics, for example, by not arguing with adults and giving in on arguments rather than risk offending others.

The second type of communication structure is called concept-oriented, a pattern that focuses on positive constraints in helping the child to develop his/her own views about the world. The parents may, for example, encourage the child to weigh all alternatives before making a decision or may expose him to controversy C either by differing openly on an issue or by discussing it with guests at home (McLeod and Chaffee 1972).

Extensive research evidence has lead researchers to assume that such family communication processes help guide the individual in coping with various situations he encounters outside the immediate family contextCfor instance, situations in relation to public affairs issues and mass media use (e.g., Chaffee, McLeod, and Atkin 1971; Chaffee, McLeod, and Wackman 1966; McLeod and Chaffee 1972). In addition, the evidence suggests that the influence of family communication, as generalized to other situations, persists well into adulthood; it appears to become part of the developing individual's personality that he carries outside the home" (Chaffee et al. 1971, p. 331).

In the context of household decision making, previous research suggests that concept-oriented family communication structures will foster greater participation in such decisions, while socio-oriented structures will deter participation (Moschis 1985). Specifically, the child's influence as result of these family communication structures can be hypothesized as follows:

H2: Concept-orientated family communication structure is positively related to the youth's propensity to play a more influential role than his/her parents in: (a) mentioning the need for products, (b) seeking information, (c) deciding what should be purchased, and (d) actually purchasing products.

H3: Socio-oriented family communication structure is negatively related to the youth's propensity to play a more influential role than his/her parents in: (a) mentioning the need for products, (b) seeking information, (c) deciding what should be purchased, and (d) actually purchasing products.

Peers

Peer influence appears to be important in early life, especially during adolescence. The youth's desire to conform to peer norms is often exemplified in terms of product ownership, making the child more likely to purchase or to request the purchase of such products. Thus, it is not surprising to find evidence indicating that young people who frequently interact with peers about consumption matters are likely to get ideas from peers regarding the products they should own (Caron and Ward 1975); they are likely to discuss peer consumption behavior with their parents (Churchill and Moschis 1979); they are likely to play an important role regarding the kinds of products and brands they or their family should buy ( e.g., Moschis et al. 1983); and they are actively involved in the purchasing process (Moschis et al. 1977). Thus, it is hypothesized that:

H4: The youth's frequency of communication with peers about consumption will be associated with greater influence in the family decision making process by increasing his/her likelihood of ( a) mentioning the need for products, (b) discussing products with parents, (c) deciding to purchase products, and (d) actually Purchasing products.

Antecedent Variables

Previous research suggests that several antecedent variables affect consumer learning. Some of these are related to the child's characteristics (such as age, sex. and social class) (Moschis 1981; Ward 1974).

In this research it is expected that age, available money, sex, and social class will affect the child's involvement in, and influence on, family decision making. Specifically, with increasing age, the child's competence as a consumer increases (e.g., Moschis and Moore 1979), and s/he may assume greater responsibility in purchasing products both for individual as well as for family use. Also, with increasing age, youngsters are likely to find alternate sources of income (e.g., work), thus decreasing his/her financial dependence upon parents for purchases of products (Sanders et al. 1973).

H5: Age is positively related to the adolescent's propensity to play a more influential role than his/her parents in (a) mentioning the need for products, ( b) discussing consumption with parents, (c) deciding whether to buy certain products, and (t) independently purchasing products.

H6: With increasing money earned outside the home, young people are less likely than their parents to (a) mention the need for products, (b) discuss the purchase of products, (c) decide whether to buy certain products, and (d) independently purchase products for individual or family use.

Furthermore, research shows that male adolescents are more likely to obtain independence in the consumption process than their female counterparts (Moschis et al. 1977). Such independence may be reflected in terms of lower participation in the decision making process involving the youth and his family. Finally, research suggests that youths from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely than their upper socioeconomic counterparts to contribute to the family's income ( Sanders et al. 1973). This may indeed increase their influence in consumer decisions. The preceding discussion suggests the following hypotheses:

H7: Female adolescents are more likely than their male counterparts to have influence over his/her parents in (a) mentioning the need for products, (b) discussing purchase of products, (c) deciding what should be purchased, and (t) actually buying products.

H8: Lower socioeconomic status adolescents are more likely than their counterparts to have influence over his/her parents in (a) mentioning the need for products, ( b) discussing purchase of products, (c) deciding what should be purchased, and (d) actually buying products.

METHOD

Sample

Adolescents from several cities and towns in five counties in urban, suburban, semi-rural, and rural Georgia in junior and senior high schools were asked to complete anonymous self-administered questionnaires. Specific schools were selected after personal interviews with school officials to ascertain schools demographically representative of their respective regions.

Respondents were also given a questionnaire to take home to their parents. This questionnaire was addressed to the child's mother. Specifically, the questionnaire asked the mother to indicate demographic characteristics of the child who brought the questionnaire to her, including his/her birthday, sex, grade in school and name of school attended by the child. This information was used to match the parent's anonymous questionnaire responses to anonymous responses given by the child at school, using primarily the child's birthdate and, whenever necessary, other demographic characteristics.

While most previous research in this area has used responses solicited either from the child or from the mother, this study solicited responses from both. Specifically, measures of the independent variables (e.g., television viewing, family and peer communication about consumption) were obtained from adolescents, whereas measures of dependent variables were solicited from the child's mother. The rationale for using this method, instead of surveying only parents or children, was based on the assumption that the youngster is in a better position to provide accurate information on his/her interaction with TV, peers, and family and motives for such interactions while the mother is in a better position to assess the child's influence on the Outcome of various types of consumer decisions over which she is expected to exercise control and authority.

A total of 161 parent-child pairs were obtained from this effort. The nonrespondents were adolescents who did not deliver the questionnaire to their parents, and parents who did not respond to questionnaires for several reasons (e.g., "household without mothers ), but the specification of nonresponse rates in these groups was not possible. The sample, however, was representative with respect to the adolescent's sex, age, race, and socioeconomic status.

Definition and Measurement of Variables

The dependent measures addressed several aspects of the role(s) a person ran play in the decision making process within the family. These included measures of the roles of (a) purchase initiator, (b) influencer, (c) decider, and (d) purchaser of the product. This conceptualization produced respective measures. Specifically, relative parent-child measures were obtained by asking mothers to indicate the person(s) who usually (a) mention(s) the need, (b) discuss(es) buying, (c) decide(s) what/whether to buy, and (d) actually buy(s) eight products. The products were soft drinks, child's clothing, shampoo, school supplies, auto repairs, kitchen appliances, records for the child, and grooming products for the child's use. These products were selected to represent various levels of relevance to the child's vis-avis family's consumption or use, providing several opportunities for parent and child involvement; in addition, the products cover the complete spectrum of consumer goods classifications - convenience, shopping, and specialty goods. The response alternatives were "parent(s)", "child" (who brought the questionnaire home), or -both parent(s) and child,- with these alternatives treated as nominal scales. Thus, the dependent variables are (a) the extent to which the child mentions the need, (b) discusses buying, (c) decides, and (d) actually purchases products for child's and family's use in relation to other family members.

The child's role as purchase initiator refers to the adolescent's relative propensity to mention the need for a product. It was measured by summing responses to those products the mother indicated the child usually mentions the need for. The alpha reliability coefficient of this 0 to 8 point scale was .67.

The child's role as influencer refers to the adolescent's relative propensity to "discuss buying" a product with others. It was similarly measured by summing responses to those products the mother indicated the child usually discusses buying. The alpha coefficient of this 0 to 8 point scale was .58.

The child's role as decider refers to the adolescent's relative propensity to decide what/whether to buy. It was measured by summing responses to those products the mother indicated the child usually decides what/whether to buy. The reliability coefficient of this 0 to 8 point scale was .69.

Finally, the child's role as purchaser refers to the adolescent's relative propensity to buy products. It was measured by summing responses to those products the mother indicated the child usually actually buys. The reliability coefficient of this 0 to 8 scale was 71

Following the rationale presented in a previous study (Moschis and Moore 1982), television advertising viewing was a direct measure of the adolescent's frequency of viewing TV commercials for the purpose of gathering information for consumer decision making as well as information about life styles and behaviors associated with consumer products. Respondents were asked to indicate on a four-point "very of ten-never" scale the extent to which they watched television ads for seven reasons such as " to find out about things to buy to impress others" and " to find out how good a product is." Responses were summed across the seven items to form a 7-to-28 point index, which had a reliability coefficient of .80.

Peer Communication about consumption was operationally defined as overt peer interaction concerning goods and services (e.g., Churchill and Moschis 1978). It was measured by summing responses to eight items such as "My friends and I talk about buying things," on a five-point " very often" (5) to "never" (1) scale; the alpha reliability coefficient of this 8 to 40 point scale was .76.

Concept-oriented and socio-oriented family communication structures were measured in line with previous research (e.g., Moschis and Moore 1978; Moschis et al. 1983) by asking the adolescent to indicate how of ten certain types of parent-child communications occur; six items were designed to measure each communication structure. The reliability coefficients of these 6 to 30 point scales were .72 and .51. respectively.

RESULTS

Table 1 shows relationships among dependent and independent variables. The two measures of family communications are unrelated, as expected. Age is negatively associated with television advertising viewing and family communications; it is positively associated with peer communication. These relationships are in line with previous theory and research (Moschis 1985).

Table 2 shows partial correlations between measures of child's participation in consumer decisions and the independent variables. Contrary to our expectations, advertising viewing frequency is not associated with any one of the four measures of the child's participation in consumer decisions, providing little support for Hypothesis 1.

In addition, concept-oriented family communication structure was not significantly related to any of the dependent measures, providing no support for Hypothesis 2. Socio-oriented family communication structure, on the other hand, was negatively associated with the child's propensity to decide what products to buy (r=-. 13, p<.05) (Hypothesis 3c) and actual purchase of these products (r=-.20, p<.01) (Hypothesis 3d), as posited.

Peer communication about consumption was positively related to most dependent measures. Specifically, the more frequently the adolescent interacts with his/her peers about consumption matters, the more likely s/he is to play a major role in mentioning the need for products (r-.20, p<.01), discussing purchase (r=.14, p<.05); peer communication was not significantly associated with actual purchase (r=.07, n.s.). These results provide support for Hypotheses 4a, 4b, and 4c; they do not support Hypothesis 4d.

Age was positively associated with all four dependent measures, as posited. Specifically, the older the adolescent is, the more likely s/he is to play a major role in mentioning the need for products (r-.20, p<.01), discussing purchase (r-.15, p<.05), making the purchasing decision (r-.31, p<.001), and actually buying products (r-.21, p<.01). These data offer support for Hypothesis 5. The data also offer partial support for Hypothesis 6, showing that with more money available adolescents have more say in consumer decisions. Although they are not necessarily more likely to mention need for products (r-.02, n.s.) (Hypothesis 6a), discuss purchases (r-.05, n.s.) (Hypothesis 6b), or participate in product decisions (r-.09, n.s.) (Hypothesis 6c), with increasing money availability adolescents are more likely to have greater purchasing independence (r-.21, p<.01) (Hypothesis 6d).

The data also provided support for Hypothesis 7 concerning the effects of sex. Specifically, female adolescents appear to be more likely than their male counterparts to mention need for products (r-.24, p<.05), discuss purchase (r-.27, p<.001), make product decisions (r-.26, p<.001), and actually purchase such products (r-.16, p<.05), offering support for Hypotheses 7a. 7b. 7c. and 7d, respectively.

The effects of socioeconomic status on the teenager's participation in consumer decisions were generally weak, with only one significant positive relationship (opposite those expected) shown between social class and the youth's propensity to mention need for products (r-.13. p<.05). Thus, Hypothesis 8 was not supported.

DISCUSSION

Television advertising viewing was not associated with any dependent measure of the child's relative participation and influence in consumer decisions. Although previous studies have shown television advertising effects on the youth's cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors, the results of the present study suggest that TV advertising viewing has no effect on household consumer decisions. If, indeed, the adolescents acted as a " selling agent" for the seller of advertised products, our data should have shown significant relationships between the frequency of viewing of such ads and measures of the youth's relative participation in consumer decisions. Thus, the second-order consequences of television advertising effects found in previous studies (e.g., Adler 1977) may only apply to young children and/or products for child's use (e.g., toys, candy). The findings appear in line with the results of a study by henderson et al. (1980).

A number of reasons can account for the inconsistency in the present results with those of previous studies. First, previous research exploring second-order consequences of television advertising effects dealt almost exclusively with children and not with adolescents. Since requests have been found to decline with age among children (Ward and Wackman 1972), it is possible that adolescents make fewer attempts to influence family decisions. Second, previous studies evaluated advertising consequences in the context of the child's consumption behavior rather than household decision making. Third, measures of advertising effects in the majority of previous studies were based on self-reported influences rather than on correlational evidence; and they based on samples of either parents or children. Fourth, previous research has focused on relatively few types of product categories. Fifth, measures of advertising exposure have normally used amount of time spent viewing TV, rather than time and motivations for viewing TV ads. Finally, measures of the child's influence in previous studies were absolute - i.e., the extent to which the child requested the advertised product; the measures in this research were relative i.e., the child's influence in relation to parental influence.

The adolescent's involvement in consumer decisions appears to be a function of social processes, with the effects of social interactions with parents and peers playing an important role. When parents discourage (constrain) the child's involvement in the world of ideas (socio-oriented family communication structure), they may also discourage the child's participation in consumer decisions. However, encouragement (concept-oriented communication structure) does not necessarily lead to greater participation in the form of autonomous decision waking. Thus, although other studies have shown significant effects of family communication structures on the youth's cognitions (Moschis et al. 1983), the results of this study suggest that such effects may not be carried to behavioral levels defining the youth's participation in family consumer decisions.

The adolescent's frequency of interaction with his/her peers about consumption matters was a fairly good predictor of involvement in the early stages of consumer decisions. Such influence, however, declines with movement toward actual purchase, suggesting that parents may mediate the effects of peer influence.

With increasing age, adolescents show greater participation in consumer decisions. This may be due to their increasing knowledge of the marketplace, to the removal of factors constraining their ability to purchase (e.g., ability to drive), or to increasing responsibility granted by their parents. With increasing money, however, adolescents appear to acquire independence in consumer decisions from their parents, since they are more likely to actually purchase products without prior consultation with them.

Finally, female adolescents appear to be more likely to be involved in consumer decisions than male adolescents. This is possibly due to the early learning of sex roles associated with gender ant/or to parental encouragement.

TABLE 1

MEANS (X), STANDARD DEVIATIONS (SD), RANGES, AND CORRELATION MATRIX FOR DEPENDENT AND INDEPENDENT VARIABLES

TABLE 2

RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MEASURES OF CHILD'S PARTICIPATION IN CONSUMER DECISIONS AND INDEPENDENT VARIABLES

REFERENCES

Adler, Richard P. (1977), Research on the Effects of Television Advertising on Children. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Caron, Andre and Scott Ward (1975), -Gift Decisions by Kids and Parents," Journal of Advertising Research, 15 (August), pp. 15-20.

Chaffee, S. and Jack M. McLeod (1968), Sensitization in Panel Design: A Co-orientational Experiment, Journalism Quarterly, 45 (Winter), pp. 661-669.

Chaffee, S., Jack M. McLeod, and Charles K. Atkin (1971), "Parental Influences on Adolescent Media Use," American Behavioral Scientist, 14 (January-February), pp. 323-340.

Chaffee, S., Jack M. McLeod, and Daniel B. Wackman (1966), Family Communication and Political Socialization," paper presented to the Association for Education in Journalism, Iowa City, Iowa.

Churchill, Gilbert A., Jr. and George P. Moschis (1979), Television and Interpersonal Influences on Adolescent Consumer Learning, Journal of Consumer Research, 6 (June). pp. 23-35.

Henderson, Caroline M., Robert Knopp, Leslie Isler and Scott Ward (1980), "Influences on Children's Product Requests and Mother Answers: A Multivariate Analysis of Diary Data, Marketing Science Institute Working Paper No. 80-108.

Kollat, David and James Blackwell (1983), Consumer Behavior (4th edition), Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press.

McLeod, Jack M., and Steven H. Chaffee (1972), -The Construction of Social Reality," in The Social Influence Process, ed. J. T. Tiedeschi, Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, pp. 50-99.

Moschis, George P. (1981), Socialization Perspectives and Consumer Behavior, in Marketing Review 1981, eds. Ben Enis and Kenneth Roering, Chicago: American Marketing Association, pp. 43-56.

Moschis, George P. (1985), The Role of Family Communication in Consumer Socialization of Children and Adolescents, Journal of Consumer Research, 11 (March).

Moschis, George P. and Roy L. Moore (1978), "Family Communication and Consumer Socialization, in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 6, ed. William L. Wilkie, Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, pp. 359-363.

Moschis, George P. and Roy L. Moore (1979), "Decision Making Among the Young: A Socialization Perspective, Journal of Consumer Research, 6 (September), pp. 101-112.

Moschis, George P. and Roy L. Moore (1982), "A Longitudinal Study of Television Advertising Effects, Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (December), pp. 279-286.

Moschis, George P., Roy L. Moore and Ruth B. Smith (1983), The Impact of Family Communication on Adolescent Consumers Socialization, Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 11, ed. Thomas C. Kinnear: Chicago: Association for Consumer Research, pp. 314-319.

Moschis, George P., Roy L. Moore and Lowndes F. Stephens (1977), Purchasing Patterns of Adolescent Consumers,  53 (Spring), pp. 17-26, 92.

Riesman, David and Howard Roseborough (1955), "Careers and Consumer Behavior, in Consumer Behavior, Vol. II: The Life Cycle and Consumer Behavior, ed. Lincoln B. York University Press, pp. 1-18.

Saunders, Josephine R., A. Coskum Salmi, and Enid F. Tozier (1973), Congruence and Conflict in Buying Decisions of Mothers and Daughters, Journal of Retailing, 49 (Fall), pp. 3-18.

Szybillo, George J., Arlene K. Sosanie and Aaron Tenenbein (1977), Should Children Be Seen But Not Heard?" Journal of Advertising Research 17 (December), pp. 6-13.

Ward, Scott (1974), "Consumer Socialization, Journal of Consumer Research, 1 (September), pp. 1-16.

Ward, Scott and Daniel B. Wackman (1971), Family and Media Influence on Adolescent Consumer Learning, American Behavioral Scientist, 14 (January-February), pp. 415-427

Ward, Scott and Daniel Wackman (1972), Children's Purchase Influence Attempts and Parental Yielding, Journal of Marketing Research 9 (August), pp. 316-319.

----------------------------------------