Family Decision Making in Leisure-Time Activities: an Exploratory Investigation of the Impact of Locus of Control, Child Age Influence Factor and Parental Type on Perceived Child Influence

William K. Darley, Indiana University
Jeen-Su Lim, University of Toledo
ABSTRACT - This paper examines the impact of parental locus of control, child age influence factor and parental type (single or dual parents) on perceptions of child influence in three specific leisure-time activities. The results lend support to previous research in terms of child influence and its dependence on product or activity specificity. In addition, locus of control, child age influence factor and parental type are found to have differing impacts on the various stages of the decision-making process.
[ to cite ]:
William K. Darley and Jeen-Su Lim (1986) ,"Family Decision Making in Leisure-Time Activities: an Exploratory Investigation of the Impact of Locus of Control, Child Age Influence Factor and Parental Type on Perceived Child Influence", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13, eds. Richard J. Lutz, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 370-374.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13, 1986      Pages 370-374

FAMILY DECISION MAKING IN LEISURE-TIME ACTIVITIES: AN EXPLORATORY INVESTIGATION OF THE IMPACT OF LOCUS OF CONTROL, CHILD AGE INFLUENCE FACTOR AND PARENTAL TYPE ON PERCEIVED CHILD INFLUENCE

William K. Darley, Indiana University

Jeen-Su Lim, University of Toledo

ABSTRACT -

This paper examines the impact of parental locus of control, child age influence factor and parental type (single or dual parents) on perceptions of child influence in three specific leisure-time activities. The results lend support to previous research in terms of child influence and its dependence on product or activity specificity. In addition, locus of control, child age influence factor and parental type are found to have differing impacts on the various stages of the decision-making process.

INTRODUCTION

Family decision-making studies have focused on the roles of the husband-wife dyad and have ignored the roles of children. Several reviewers (Burns & Granbois 1980; Dunsing & Hafstrom 1975; Ferber 1975; Granbois 1979) have expressed concern about the inherent dangers of the over emphasis on the dyad and the failure to take into account the total family composition, even when the products in question have been consumed by the total family.

Besides the limitations inherent in ignoring the influence of children in family decision-making, the trend toward more single parent families has not been adequately considered in family decision-making research. Not only may such neglect produce misleading results, but they may have far reaching effects on managerial decisions pertaining to consumption behavior.

The purpose of this study is to investigate parental perception of child influence concerning three leisure-time activities. These activities are movie-attendance (family type movie), family outing (a picnic) and participant sports (e.g., the family going to bowl or skate together). The three leisure-time activities were selected because they represent three different types of discretionary activities (Holbrook & Lehmann 1980). The questions of interest are whether differences will be seen to exist in perceptions of child influence among external and internal locus of control parents, among single and dual-parent families, and whether this perceived influence varies at different stages in the decision-making process.

It is worth noting that most of the relevant research has focused on the decision-making process as it pertains to large, resource-binding and infrequent purchase experiences (Burns & Granbois 1980). Besides the limitations inherent in the types of products featured in the studies, the influence of children in family decision-making and the trend towards more single parent families have too often been ignored. Hence, the investigation of three leisure-time activities, and the impact of parental locus of control and parental type on perceived child influence may provide new insights in family decision-making.

LOCUS OF CONTROL

As a moderating personality characteristic, locus of control is concerned with the degree to which individuals perceive themselves as being in control of their lives and events that influence their lives, or the degree of control individuals perceive themselves to possess in regard to the consequences of their behavior (Rotter 1966). Individuals having an external locus of control tend to attribute the influences on their lives to such things as luck, fate, chance or strong forces they cannot overcome. People having an internal locus of control tend to attribute the influences on their lives to forces such as their own skills that are within their control. Externals attribute causality to environmental forces while internals assign such attribution to personal forces.

Internal locus of control and external locus of control individuals differ not only as to their attentiveness to information immediately present in the environment, but also in terms of their actively seeking additional relevant information (Seeman 1963; Seeman & Evans 1962). Consequently, parental locus of control may have varied impacts on the search element within the decision-making process. In addition, persons with an external locus of control may be more likely generally to let others influence them, than may those with an internal locus of control.

Extrapolating from the foregoing ideas, we hypothesize that

H1: Different degrees of child influence will be perceived by internal versus external locus of control parents, with external locus of control parents assigning greater influence to their children.

It has been suggested that more consideration be given to the inclusion of personality variables in future studies as to family decision-making (Dunsing & Hafstrom 1975). Thus the introduction of parental locus of control may provide additional insight into our understanding of child influence in family decision-making.

TYPE OF PARENTING (SINGLE VS DUAL PARENTS)

This paper also investigates single and dual parents' perceptions of the influence of children in various subdecision areas. Demographic data clearly indicates a trend toward more single parent families; the increase in one parent families is among the most dramatic social developments of the last decade. The number of one parent families in the U.S.A. increased 79% from 1970 to 1979. In 1970 about 11% of the families with children still living at home were maintained by one parent, but by 1980 this percentage had increased to 20%. That is one of every five families with children in the home (U.S. Bureau Press Release, CB 80-154; and interview with James Reed, Head, Marriage and Family, U.S. Census Bureau).

Such a recognized increase supports the argument of a changing family structure. Changes in family structure may lead to changes in decision-making patterns and coalitions within the family. The absence of a parent will lead to changes in decision-making patterns among the single parent and the children. This absence of a parent not only changes the family structure and composition, but it is expected that the decision-making patterns resulting from the influence of the child or children is likely to change as well.

Extrapolating from the aforementioned ideas, it is hypothesized that:

H2: Different degrees of child influence will be perceived by single- versus dual-parent families, with single parents assigning more influence to the children than do dual-parent families.

It would be of interest to both practitioners and academicians, therefore, to understand the impact of the above changes on certain aspects of family decision-making and to identify differences between dual-parent and single-parent families.

CHILDREN

Previous studies suggest that the children's ages is one of the factors which affect the likelihood of influence upon a parental decision (McNeal 1969; Mehrotra & Torges 1976; Ward & Wackman 1972). Jenkins (1979), for example, found that older children, especially teenagers, were perceived to have more influence, and that both spouses perceived children to be highly influential in deciding on what activities the family will participate in jointly, especially regarding vacation decisions.

A purchase decision is composed of a sequence of decisions and different individuals within the family may play different roles at different stages (Davis 1970; Jenkins 1979). One should expect the perceived influence of children, therefore, to vary across the different stages of the decision-making process.

In keeping with the foregoing, for this study an age distribution index was computed by assigning the numbers l, 2 and 3 to the different age groups 0 to 5, 6 to 12, and 13 to 17 respectively. This subdivision of the age groups of children is a modified version of the categorization proposed by Erik H. Erikson, a noted psychoanalyst (Thompson 1981, p. 51). The sum of the products of the assigned number and the number of children in the various categories was divided by the total number of children in each family. The age distribution index thus was used to determine high or low child age influence factor. The child age influence factor was classified as high for families whose indices were greater than l.5 to 3. Low child influence factor reflected those indices from zero to 1.5.

Based on this discussion, we hypothesize that:

H3: Child age influence factor has significant impact on the degree of perceived influence assigned to children.

In addition, a major concern in this research is to enquire as to the extent to which locus of control, parental type and the child age influence factor affect perceptions of child influence. Hence, it is hypothesized that:

H4: The impact of locus of control, type of parenting (single or dual) and child age influence factor will vary, depending on the involved stage of the decision-making process.

METHODOLOGY

A convenience sample comprising 106 parents in the Washington, D.C. area was used in this exploratory study. The data were collected from small groups and residential family units in three geographic areas under the supervision of the first author. Three graduate students assisted in the endeavor. About two-thirds of the respondents were females. Of the total population sample, including both males and females, about a third were single parents. The average family income ranged between $15000 and $25000, while the typical respondent age ranged between 25 and 40 years.

Each parent was asked to respond to a series of questions about the perceived influence of his/her children pertaining to the subdecisions within each of three leisure-time activities. The three leisure-time activities were: (a) motion picture attendance (at a family type movie), (b) family outing (a picnic), and (c) participant sports (e.g. the family going together to bowl or skate). These activities were outside-the-home, leisure-time activities in which the entire family could participate. Following the tradition of Davis (1970, 1971), with slight modifications, respondents were asked to indicate child influence on a five-point Likert-type-scale, ranging from "never influential" to "almost always influential" for the seven subdecisions of when, how much, where, etc., pertinent to each leisure-time activity.

It should be noted that even where the household contained both parents, only one parent responded to the questionnaire. Much evidence (Davis 1970; Granbois & Willet 1970; Wilkening & Morrison 1963) is provided already that the responses of husbands and wives are very similar when compared on an aggregate basis. Indeed, Davis (1976) argues that if the purpose of a study is limited to describing the relative influence of husband versus wife in making various decisions, it is sufficient to question only one spouse; on the other hand, if the researcher in subsequent analysis wants to use a measure of influence, data should be collected from both spouses.

After responding to the items relating to the degree of child/children influence on the three leisure-time activities, subjects were asked then to respond to Rotter's Internal-External locus of control scale (Robinson & Shaver, 1980). This scale consists of 23 question pairs using a forced-choice format. A point is given to each external statement selected. Thus, scores can range from zero (most internal) to 23 (most external). In this study, scores less than 11 were classified as "internals" while scores greater than 12 were classified as "externals."

The final section of the questionnaire asked the respondents to reply to a number of demographic questions. These included questions about ages of the children concerned, the sex of the responding parent, her/his marital status, annual household income, number of children in the home, age of the responding parent, and whether the parent questioned was currently a single parent or not.

ANALYSIS

Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was performed to test the hypotheses. MANOVA unique sum of squares procedure (SPSSX) was used since the cell sizes were unequal. The dependent measures were the perceived child influences for the seven subdecisions/areas. The factors in the 2x2x2 full factorial design were: external versus internal locus of control parents, single versus dual-parent families and the high versus low child age influence factor. In addition to the overall significance, the contribution of the independent variables to the overall significance was investigated using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA).

Table 1A shows the group means of the responses made by the internal and external locus of control parents. As indicated by the results for the three activities, there were consistently greater perceived influence responses coming from the external locus of control parents than from the internal locus of control parents. This was true for each individual item statement from the 68 external locus of control parents and 38 internal locus of control parents.

Table 1B shows group means of the responses made by single and dual parents. For most subdecision items single parents made greater perceived influence responses. Excepting five instances (one for movie attendance, two for participant sports and two for family outing), the group means attained from the 40 single parents and the 66 dual-parent families indicated greater single-parent perceived influence assigned to children. Table 1C shows group means of the responses for the child age influence factor to be considerably greater for the high child age influence factor group than for the low child age influence factor group.

Table 2 shows MANOVA results of the three leisure-time activities this study investigated. Wilks' Lambda is the multivariate test of significance used. For movie attendance there was a global significant difference between the responses of the external and internal locus of control parents. No interactions were significant. For participant sports, significant difference was at the 0.05 level between the high and low child age influence factor groups. That significant result is qualified by a significant interaction between locus of control and child influence. For family outing, two significant main effects were obtained for single vs dual parent and low vs high child age influence factor. No interaction effects for family outing were significant.

Partial support thus is provided for H1, H2 and H3. The locus of control main effect was significant, at least for movie attendance. Main effects of single vs dual parent and child age influence factor for family outing were significant at the .05 and .10 levels respectively. However, because of the significant interaction between locus of control and child age influence factor, the main effect for participant sports is uninterpretable.

TABLE 1 A, B, C

A - LOCUS OF CONTROL GROUP MEANS: RESPONSES FOR THREE LEISURE-TIME ACTIVITIES

B - PARENTAL TYPE GROUP MEANS: RESPONSES FOR THREE LEISURE-TIME ACTIVITIES

C - CHILD AGE INFLUENCE FACTOR GROUP MEANS: RESPONSES FOR THREE LEISURE-TIME ACTIVITIES

TABLE 2

MANOVA RESULTS FOR AN THREE ACTIVITIES

Hypothesis 4 can be examined in Table 3A, B and C. These tables show the ANOVA results for the three activities in terms of the seven subdecisions. In the case of participant sports (Table 3A), significant locus of control main effects were obtained for the following subdecision items: "what type," and "when to go." Significant parental type main effects were obtained for "how much to spend" and "where to go." All of the child age influence factor main effects were significant with exception of "where to go."

Pertinent to movie attendance (Table 38), none of the locus of control main effects was significant and only "when to go" showed significant parental type main effect. Two significant child age influence factor main effects were also obtained for "specific information" and "when to go." Considering Table 3C, significant main effects of locus of control and child age influence factor were found only for "specific information" and "how much to spend" respectively for the family outing subdecision items.

An examination of Tables SA, B and C indicates that proportionately the child age influence factor shows a much greater variation than either parental type or locus of control. The hypothesis of no variation is rejected (H4). The results show somewhat weak, but significant, variation.

Given the number of significant interaction effects between locus of control and parental type in the case of participant sports, this covariation was investigated by examining the marginal means. Table 4 presents the marginal means. In the case of external locus of control parents, there was no substantial difference in the perceived child influence between single and dual parents. However, for internal locus of control parents, the marginal means clearly show that the single parents perceive less child influence than do the dual parents in all stages of the decision making process, except "where to go."

CONCLUSION

Although this study does not offer conclusive results, it nevertheless lends support to the general idea that perceptions of child influence are product specific. Mehotra and Torges (1976) concluded that variables which increase the likelihood of parental yielding to influence attempts by children for such products as children's clothes, potato chips and soft drinks, are product specific. In our findings, group differences in perceptions of child influence tended to be leisure-activity specific.

TABLE 3A

ANOVA RESULTS FOR PARTICIPANT SPORTS

TABLE 3B

ANOVA RESULTS FOR MOVIE

Partial support was provided for the Hypotheses 1, 2 and w The results showed that locus of control, parental type and child age influence factor had significant impact on perceived child influence. In addition, the results showed significant variation of the impact of the three factors on the perceived influence in the different stages of the family decision-making process as hypothesized in Hypothesis 4.

The child age influence factor showed a proportionately greater variation than either parental type or parental locus of control. This observation was particularly true for participant sports and for the stages of the decision-making process. Thus, for activities such as participant sports, involving a high degree of involvement, interaction and time commitment, the child age influence factor makes a big difference in the parental perception of child influence. In addition, the findings lend support to the fact that the age of the child has a significant impact on perceived child influence.

TABLE 3C

ANOVA RESULTS FOR FAMILY OUTING

TABLE 4

MARGINAL MEANS FOR PARTICIPANT SPORTS

At the subdecision level, not counting the significant interactions, one locus of control main effect of the ANOVA results was significant for family outing. This was "specific information." Thus, at least for certain aspects of the search process, external locus of control parents perceive greater child influence. For movie attendance, there was only one significant parental type main effect, namely, "when to go." Hence, in the timing aspects of the decision making process, single parents perceive greater child influence. Finally, for the child influence factor the following significant main effects were obtained for participant sports, family outing and movie attendance: all subdecision items were significant except "where to go" in the case of participant sports; "how much to spend" for family outing; and "specific information" and "when to go" for movie attendance. The child age influence factor thus appears to make a major difference, not only to a great extent for participant sports, but also to some extent for movie attendance and family outing.

Future research should explore the locus of control and type of parent issues, using further similar and different kinds of settings with other product/activity types and in other purchase situations. The locus of control and parental type (single versus dual) provide some insights into parental perceptions of child influence. The degree of influence which that parental type may have on the locus of control measure needs to be investigated. Given the trend toward more and more single parent families, future research should explore the effects of such changes on family decision making.

The locus of control construct may be applied to husband-wife purchase decisions in that different locus of control couples may practice a different influence strategy mix. Spiro (1983) identified several demographic and attitude variables as discriminators among influence strategy mixes used by husbands and wives in resolving disagreements concerning purchase decisions. The addition of the locus of control concept to such studies will introduce a new dimension in identifying the possible influence strategy mix of husbands and wives, since it is possible that different locus of control couples may practice different purchasing decisions. It is suggested, therefore, that the locus of control concept be investigated further in the context of husband-wife relationships in particular, and in family decision-making, in general.

Of all three factors investigated in this study, the child age influence factor appeared to have had the strongest impact on parental perception of child influence. This observation suggests that future research interested in perceived child influence would have to treat some child-age aspect as a covariate would have to control this factor in the research design.

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