Deborah D. Heisley, Northwestern University
Paula S. Holmes, Northwestern University
ABSTRACT - Six approaches to studies of the family that are relevant to research in consumer behavior are presented: the Interactionist, Social Anthropological/ Systems, French Structuralist, Developmental, Historical, and Feminist approaches. By organizing a sample of family consumption behavior literature drawn from the Journal of Consumer Research, this paper demonstrates that only a few of the relevant approaches have been utilized Furthermore, there is a strong bias in the consumption literature towards utilizing sociological perspectives on the family while ignoring anthropological approaches It is suggested that anthropological perspectives re the family can provide a major impetus toward broadening understanding of family consumption behavior.
[ to cite ]:
Deborah D. Heisley and Paula S. Holmes (1987) ,"", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 453-457.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 453-457

A REVIEW OF FAMILY CONSUMPTION RESEARCH: THE NEED FOR A MORE ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

Deborah D. Heisley, Northwestern University

Paula S. Holmes, Northwestern University

ABSTRACT -

Six approaches to studies of the family that are relevant to research in consumer behavior are presented: the Interactionist, Social Anthropological/ Systems, French Structuralist, Developmental, Historical, and Feminist approaches. By organizing a sample of family consumption behavior literature drawn from the Journal of Consumer Research, this paper demonstrates that only a few of the relevant approaches have been utilized Furthermore, there is a strong bias in the consumption literature towards utilizing sociological perspectives on the family while ignoring anthropological approaches It is suggested that anthropological perspectives re the family can provide a major impetus toward broadening understanding of family consumption behavior.

INTRODUCTION

The family is both a major consumption unit in its own right and a partial determinant of individual consumption behavior As such, it is a significant unit of analysis for consumer behavior researchers. In recent decades research on the family has grown tremendously and many new and radically different perspectives have emerged Yet the field of consumer research in marketing has overlooked a number of these approaches to the family.

The goal of this paper is to stimulate consumer researchers' interest and creativity in relation to family studies Therefore, six approaches that are currently utilized in studies of the family and that are relevant to consumer behavior research are discussed: the Interactionist, Social Anthropological/ Systems, French Structuralist, Developmental, Historical, and Feminist approaches. The basic tenets of each approach are outlined.

The major thesis of this paper is that only a few of the possible approaches to studying family consumption behavior have been tapped by consumer behavior researchers. Additionally, the perspectives used by consumer behavior researchers are typically sociological, not anthropological In order to illustrate these observations, in this paper a sample of consumer behavior literature has been assessed in light of the frameworks used or not used.

The literature sample consists of all Journal of Consumer Research articles concerning the family that were published in the past twelve years These articles are organized according to the type of approach employed by the researcher As a result, it is concluded that:

(1) the Interactionist approach is the most purely sociological approach and is by far the most utilized in family consumption behavior research,

(2) anthropological perspectives such as Social Anthropological/ Systems, and French Structuralist approaches to the study of the family are not used in the sample, and

(3) researchers utilizing the interdisciplinary Developmental, Historical, and Feminist approaches to the family tend to ignore the anthropological perspective on these approaches; furthermore, these approaches are employed in only a handful of the studies in this sample of consumption literature

In sum, if the Journal of Consumer Research is a good indicator of the field of consumer research in general, then anthropological perspectives on the study of the family have been practically if not virtually ignored.

Interactionist Approach: A Well-used Sociological Approach

The Interactionist approach is a sociological and social psychological approach in which the family is conceived of as a unity of interacting personalities. Interpersonal relations and communicative processes within the family are studied as indicators of familial role relations, status positions, and norms (role expectations) Decision making and socialization within the family are two core processes of concern within the Interactionist framework (Schvaneveldt 1966).

One of the more common uses of the Interactionist approach is in analyses of family decision making processes. Family decision making research constitutes the majority of the articles on the family in the Journal of Consumer Research. There are nineteen articles on family decision making published in the past twelve year period in the Journal of Consumer Research With some overlap the family decision making literature can be classified into those articles dealing with roles in the family decision making process (Davis 1976, Davis and Rigaux 1974, Ferber and Lee 1974, Filiatrault and Ritchie 1980, Green et al 1983, Scanzoni 1977, Rosen and Granbois 1983), and those dealing with such power and conflict concepts as dominance, influence, power, conflict, and consensus in family decision making (Filiatrault and Ritchie 1980, Green et al 1983 Munsinger, Weber, and Hansen 1975, Park 1982, Spiro 1983 Szybillo, Sosanie, and Tenenbein 1979).

Another Area of Interactionist studies that is relevant to consumer behavior research concerns the effects of family interaction on the consumer socialization of children. This has been examined by Churchill and Moschis (1979), Moschis (1985), and Moschis and Moore (1979). Belk, Bahn, and Mayer (1982) also examine how sibling influence affects developmental recognition of consumption symbolism. These applications of the approach are socio-psychological in nature.

Three less used interactionist approaches to the study of family decision making are an information acquisition and processing approach, an economic approach, and an individual and joint preference approach. One article uses an information processing approach to examine how different husband-wife information processing strategies affect joint decisions (Curry and Menasco, 1979). Rudd and Kohout (1983) examine family members' acquisition of information and decision time using an interactionist approach. The economic approach is used to explore the possibility of increasing satisfaction with family decision making by introducing economic reasoning into the process (Kourilsky and Murray 1981), and to look at fertility and resource allocation decisions (Bagozzi and Van Loo 1978, Hunt and Kiker 1981). Finally, Granbois and Summers (1975), Krishnamurthi (1983), and Wind (1976) focus on how individual (own and relevant others') preferences affect joint preferences and decisions, and on how relevant others' preferences affect individual preferences and decisions.

Another Interactionist approach that could be used in family decision making research is the game theory approach. While game theory has been developed in other areas of marketing research, especially competitive modeling, it has not been applied to the family by consumer behavior researchers.

The Interactionist approach can be credited for producing the first dynamic model of the family, since it views the family as a negotiating process instead of a static structure On the other hand, the approach makes it difficult to generalize findings across families because emphasis is upon individual family dynamics. Interactionists typically overlook macro issues, such as the family's relation to economy, polity, etc., and hence tend to ignore the historical, cultural, and social context of the family's dynamics. Anthropological perspectives such as the Social Anthropological/ Systems approach or the French Structuralist approach explicitly deal with such macro considerations.

ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES: NOT USED

Social Anthropology/Systems

Social Anthropologists examine the family in terms of the structure of kinship relations and their functions in the culture (Keesing 1975) Classic social anthropologists focus upon "the formal aspects of the systems of marriage and the family, -such as composition, residence rules, kinship obligations, parental authority patterns, marriage forms and regulations, separations, and so on, and attempt to trace the structural implications of these aspects for the community as a whole" (Berardo 1966, p 19) Kinship diagrams, a tool for tracing formal kinship structures, are an integral part of classic Social Anthropology. In the past two decades social anthropological studies of kinship have moved away from kinship as a rigid formal structure by incorporating the notion of the family as a flexible, dynamic system and emphasizing the flow of goods and exchange along kinship lines This latter approach has become known as the Systems approach.

The most important contribution of the Systems approach to the study of the family is its emphasis on individual families as semi-bounded dynamic entities with distinct cultural configurations and relations In contrast to Interactionist theorists who examine generalized internal workings of families, Systems theorists focus on the particular and unique relations among kin, taking each person's interaction with the greater social environment into account. A description of this system is known as the "family network." Systems studies examine the direct and indirect communicative processes throughout a network.

The Social Anthropological/ Systems approaches to studies of the family emphasize that the important unit of study for consumption research is not the individual nuclear family Instead, a broader realm of influence is edged For example, Foster's (1984) analysis of Thai social exchange networks demonstrates the great amount of exchange of goods and aid among seemingly unrelated households. Consumption studies that examine the nuclear family as an independent consumption unit, that consider the resource base of a household in isolation, or that only take into account goods that have been decided on or purchased by members of that household, are missing the contributions made by other members of the network.

Not only do Social Anthropological/ Systems researchers emphasize the greater resource base of the extended network but they have also demonstrated the influence that this network has upon family decision making Bott (1957) posits a relationship between decision making, role behavior, and the connectedness of the kin and social networks. The strength of this relationship and its impact on consumption decisions should be pursued by consumer behavior researchers. Perhaps familial connectedness is a major construct influencing consumption behavior. At the 1985 ACR conference O'Conner, Sullivan and Pogorzelski, in a literature review of cross-cultural family purchasing decision articles (most of these being written in fields outside of consumer behavior per se) recognize that the connectedness of the family network influences joint decision making within the family. However this concept has not been used in the consumer behavior research, either in the family decision making literature or otherwise.

Several articles in the JCR sample deal with crosscultural consumption differences of families or households (Douglas 1976, Green, et al 1983, Wallendorf and Reilly 1983) However, no articles are found that examine differences in kinship relations and corresponding consumption behavior differences, a notion that seems central to an understanding of family consumption behavior

French Structuralism

French Structuralism is an anthropological approach that was inspired primarily-from the work of Claude Levi-Strauss (1969). French Structuralist studies of the family emphasize the symbolic meaning of kin and kin terms and seek to explain ideals and norms concerning appropriate familial behavior. Emphasis is not upon measuring actual familial behavior under varying social conditions but upon the underlying cultural symbols, beliefs, and ideals that structure the choices of social actors Of particular relevance to consumption research are French Structuralist discussions of how cultural ideals structure gift-giving and other exchange behavior within the family

In the growing consumer behavior literature on symbolism, ritual, and gift-giving, the influence of French Structuralism is often apparent. Expressions of French Structuralism in consumer behavior and examples of its use in relation to family consumption are found in Levy (1981) and Douglas and Isherwood (1979). Levy assumes "that the products are used symbolically, and that the telling about their uses is a way of symbolizing the life and nature of t the family" (1981, p. 50)

French Structuralism, however, has not been applied to family consumption research in the Journal of Consumer Research Hirschman's (1985) JCR article does advocate using the French Structuralist approach in family consumption studies by suggesting that the "impact of ancestry and kinship upon consumption and the spiritual meaning with which they can invigorate our possessions are important avenues for consumer research" (1985, p. 151).

The potential contribution of French Structuralism to consumer behavior studies of the family lies in the concept of "family" as a symbol bearing cultural meaning. The symbolic value of the consumption pattern of the family, and ideals and beliefs concerning appropriate interfamily behavior are two areas of French Structuralism that may serve to explain variations in family consumption patterns given similar life circumstances

INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACHES: ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE NOT APPLIED

Developmental Approach

The major emphasis of the Developmental approach is upon the family life cycle. There are two versions of the developmental approach: 1) the socio-psychological development of the family life cycle that was first proposed by Duvall (1957), and 2) the anthropological structural-functional view of the household developmental cycle as delineated by Fortes (1958). The first version is closely related to the Interactionist approach. Focus is upon roles, position, and status within the family over the life cycle (Hill and Hansen 1960). Socio-psychological Developmentalists emphasize individual family dynamics over time and, like interactionists, tend to ignore the historical, cultural, and social context of the family's dynamics.

The second version of the Developmental approach examines changes in household family structure over the family life cycle as individuals age, get married, have children, etc. Fortes (1958) delineated three stages in what he refers to as the household developmental cycle: expansion, dispersion or fission, and replacement Much of the subsequent work in this area has concentrated on delineating household or other structural changes over the life cycle.

The added factor of treating the family as dynamic over time in certain generalizable ways makes the Developmental approach valuable. On the other hand, the time dimension is of a relatively short term nature. That is, family after family repeats this cycle. The approach does not address long run historical changes that differentially affect families across generations.

In the Journal of Consumer Research, for the past twelve years, one finds articles using family life cycle for segmentation purposes, as a theoretical construct (Derrick and Lehfeld 1980, Murphy and Staples 1979, Wagner and Hanna 1983), or as a control variable when investigating women's time allocation and consumption patterns when they work outside the home [See discussion of Women in the Force, below]. As is evident from these studies, family life cycle has been used mostly as a demographic and socio-psychological variable in studies of the family. For example, Spiro (1983), who controls for family life cycle when examining husband-wife influence strategies in family decision making, and a few of the "Women in the Work Force" researchers, view the family life cycle from the interactionist, socio-psychological perspective.

An anthropological-structural perspective of the relationship between household developmental structure and family or household consumption behavior could offer major contributions to the field. For example, extended family households and nuclear family households certainly differ in their consumption patterns and priorities A theory that explicates such structural developmental differences in consumption patterns and the causal factors underlying them could better explain the relationship between family life cycle and consumption patterns.

Historical Approach

In recent decades, historians have developed an approach to the study of families that is unique to their discipline. Like the Developmental model, the Historical approach examines change in the family, and as such it also deals with the family life cycle. However, the Historical approach more typically examines long term changes in household structure and how these relate to changes in other sectors of the society (Anderson 1980). What delineates the Historical approach is this focus on long term change, and the use of archival sources to examine this change. The Historical approach is now used by some sociologists and anthropologists in their study of the family, and its diachronic perspective is a certain improvement over synchronic cross-cultural comparisons as evidence of change.

One traditional approach in historical analysis has been the sociological demographic approach - one of correlational analyses of changes in household demographics with changes in economy, ecology, polity, and social accident (Anderson 1980). There is only one article in the JCR sample that even approximates the diachronic, demographic approach to studies of the household. This article analyzes change in American "Patterns of Marriage and Family Formation and Dissolution" (Kerckhoff 1976) with the conclusion that there is little evidence of radical change. For a better understanding of consumption behavior, an analysis is needed of how household and family structure has changed historically in relation to changes in the larger social environment, and how these changes relate to changes in consumption patterns.

Because historians have typically relied upon data of household/ residence and composition rather than of kinship analyses, which are difficult to undertake with archival material, they have drawn attention in recent years to the distinction between household and family. Yanagisako, (1979) and Netting, Wilk, and Arnould (1984) suggest that the domestic group has two dimensions. One dimension, based on kinship relations, is the family. The second dimension is the household, which is defined by at least some degree of co-residence and a shared set of activities.

There has been little sensitivity to the issue of family versus household in the marketing literature Only one article (Ferber and Birnbaum 1977) in the sample dealt with this difference by objecting to economists' tendency to propose a single preference function for the household based on the male head of household's preference function

The implications of family relations as distinct from the household unit, in addition to the implications of co-residence and shared tasks as distinct from family relations, and the interaction of these two factors, needs to be more carefully considered in consumption behavior research. Family relations often span a wide geographical area and tend to influence consumption ideologies, whereas households are confined to a geographical location and in addition to influencing ideologies, tend to influence consumption behavior on a more concrete and daily basis.

Feminist Approach

The Feminist approach to the family, as described in an excellent synthesis of the field by Thorne (1982), challenges a number of prevalent assumptions about the family. The approach particularly forces a critique of the Parsonian model of the family, which views the role of women as primarily responsible for expressive functions (home and family centered, child-rearing, domestic duties, et: ) and the role of men s primarily concerned with instrumental functions (especially as the bread-winner). Feminists note that this is an ethnocentric view of what the family should be, being based on white, middle-class, Western ideals. Feminists also charge that mainstream Western society treats most variations from the nuclear family model as deviant forms.

There have been seventeen articles published in JCR during the past twelve years that focus on women: all in the context of the family. Two studies implicitly focus on women, discussing the fertility decision and time allocation from an economic, interactionist, family decision-making perspective (Bagozzi and Van Loo 1978, Hunt and Kiker 1981). Scanzoni (1977) examines the effect of women's changing roles on family decision making - again an interactionist perspective. Venkatesh (1980) examines the relationship between women's identification with traditionalism versus feminism and certain life-style characteristics. The rest of the articles present analyses of the effect of women's labor force participation on their time allocation and/or consumption behavior with regards to the family (mostly examining the use of labor-saving devices and services in the home). Of these latter fifteen articles, only two deal with the issues from a feminist perspective.

The majority of the labor force participation literature addresses consumption and time allocation differences between married women who work outside the home and those who do not (referred to most often in the literature as working and non-working wives, a degrading comment on women who work in the home) In these articles, the tendency is to ignore differences in the types of work that are done by women, and present a simple "work versus does not" or "hours worked" analysis (Bellante and Foster 1984, Douglas 1976, Jackson, McDaniel and Rao 1985, Morgan 1985, Nickols and Fox 1983, Strober and Weinberg 1977 and 1980, Weinberg and Winer 1983). The research in this area has only recently progressed into more sensitive analyses of differences between women and their worktypes, as shown by Reilly (1982), who considers the degree of role overload experienced by women who work outside the home, and Schaninger and Allen (1981), who consider the women's occupational status. Yet all of these studies are basically aimed toward marketers' ability to use wives' occupational status as a segmentation variable, and are not concerned with any sort of a feminist perspective of women's consumption patterns.

Ferber and Birnbaum (1977, 1980) are the only researchers who use the Feminist approach in dealing with the allocation of time by women over the life cycle. Ferber and Birnbaum present wife's labor force participation over the family life cycle as an important determinant of a woman's status within the family, her dependence on the family, the satisfaction of both spouses, and the family's economic well-being. These types of considerations, and the impact of these factors on women's consumption needs and behavior, should be a most interesting area for future family consumption research.

Most of the literature that focuses on women uses a sociological, interactionist perspective rather than an anthropological perspective. Because women's labor force participation, roles, and status differ across societies, research that examines the relationship between family consumption behavior and these factors cross-culturally is needed.

CONCLUSION

This paper has outlined six basic approaches to the study of family behavior and their applications to consumer behavior research It has been found through an examination of articles published in the Journal of Consumer Research over the past twelve years that research into family consumption behavior has relied most extensively on sociological approaches to the family, while anthropological perspectives have been underutilized.

Consumer behavior researchers have tended to view the family and/or household from one of the following viewpoints: 1) the family as a consumption decision-making unit, especially with regard to major purchases, 2) the family life cycle as a framework for describing changing consumption patterns, 3) the household as a unit of analysis in various investigations of consumption patterns, without any distinction between family and household as consumption units per se. Correspondingly, the approaches that have been most used are sociological approaches, and particularly the Interactioninst approach

Social Anthropological/ Systems and French Structuralist approaches to the family are not found in the sample These anthropological approaches, however, have significant potential for uncovering the relation between varying kinship structures and consumption patterns or the symbolic value of the consumption pattern of the family.

Finally, interdisciplinary Developmental, Historical, and Feminist approaches, have been significantly underrepresented Researchers using these interdisciplinary approaches have tended to ignore the anthropological perspectives on changing household structure over time, differences between household and family, and cross-cultural variations in women's roles.

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