Consumption Choice Within the Black Extended Family Network

Judy Cohen, Rider College
[ to cite ]:
Judy Cohen (1992) ,"Consumption Choice Within the Black Extended Family Network", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, eds. John F. Sherry, Jr. and Brian Sternthal, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 338-345.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, 1992      Pages 338-345

CONSUMPTION CHOICE WITHIN THE BLACK EXTENDED FAMILY NETWORK

Judy Cohen, Rider College

Carol Kaufman, Rutgers University

INTRODUCTION

Family decision making has long been recognized as an important component of consumer behavior. The first Association for Consumer Research - Household Consumption Behavior Session (Burns and Gentry 1988) uncovered several topic areas which are needed to further develop knowledge in household theory. One such area is subcultural influence on family consumption choice.

Subcultural influences have also been identified as an intervening variable in family decision making by Buss and Schaninger (1984). Penaloza and Gilly (1986) have suggested frameworks for studying Hispanic families. O'Guinn, Faber and Imperia (1986) have found that family decision making of Hispanics differs from that of whites.

Another major subcultural group is the black market. In 1990, there were 31 million blacks, comprising over 12 per cent of the U.S. population. In spite of this market presence, few studies in consumer research (Baran 1986; Wilkes 1971) have been done on black family consumption choice processes. Other disciplines, such as sociology and anthropology, have extensively discussed and debated approaches to the study of black families, black family structure and behavior, and black family consumption choice.

This paper offers suggestions to fill this gap in the consumer research literature. This paper: (1) describes the controversy over the structure and behavior of the black family; (2) reviews the interdisciplinary literature on black family structure and black family decision making, to (3) develop propositions concerning black family consumption choice; (4) suggests methodologies to test the propositions; and (5) discusses the contribution of the framework for the black extended family network to family research.

BLACK FAMILIES: THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE MATRIARCHAL MARKET

The structure and behavior of black families, as viewed by practitioners and academicians from a variety of disciplines, is that of a matriarchy. The description of Afro-American society as a matriarchy was first developed by Frazier (1939) , who proposed that the U. S. black family evolved as a result of slavery and blacks' subsequent history in the United States. Frazier painted a picture of broken families, ineffectual or absent fathers, and a matriarchal system. This view was reinforced by Moynihan (1965), who felt that the instability of the black family was the cause of problems in the black community. That is, the black family exhibits traits which are dysfunctional and deviant from the norm. The concept of the black matriarchy has been and still is adopted by some marketers (Bauer and Cunningham 1970; Taylor 1982).

In the 1970's, scholars in various fields began to react against Frazier's conceptualization of the black family (Allen 1978a and 1978b; Mathis 1978; Nobles 1978; Willie and Greenblatt 1978). Some scholars (Nobles 1978; Scanzoni 1971; Staples 1976) proposed that black families were victimized by economic and racial discrimination. If given the same economic conditions, black families and white families are equivalent (Liebow 1966; Mack 1971; Rodman 1963; Scanzoni 1971; Willie 1974). Others argued that the unique aspects of black family life must be taken into account (Allen 1978a and 1978b). By focusing on the stereotypical matriarchal figure, the interactions among other family members are ignored. In this paper, we examine the black family as a network of interactions. The key to understanding this network of interactions is the adoption of a cultural variant perspective.

We use Johnson's (1988) criterion of a cultural variant study, i. e. "...white middle class norms are not the primary referent and Black cultural patterns are primarily explained by use of Black values and experiences" (p. 95). The need for a cultural variant perspective stems from the fact that "black and white families exist in different social and cultural environments, and as a result they differ in both structure and way of functioning . . ." (Allen, 1978a, p. 125-6).

PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING A CULTURAL VARIANT PERSPECTIVE TO THE STUDY OF BLACK FAMILY STRUCTURE

Our cultural variant perspective is based on two guiding principles. These assumptions are (1) the extended family, rather than the nuclear family, is the black family structural norm; and (2) interaction between family members can be best understood in the context of mutual exchange, rather than power and conflict resolution.

Black Family Structure: The Nuclear vs. Extended Family

Approaches to the study of the black family which do not use a cultural variant perspective assume that the structural norm for all families must be the nuclear family. The cultural variant perspective reaches a different conclusion; that the norm for black families derives from African family structure. "[I]n African societies the conjugal unit (the African counterpart to the nuclear family) is subordinate to the consanguineal kinship group" (Foster 1983, p. 214). The family consists of both lineage (relations based on descent) and marriage, forming an extended family. In addition, the extended family network may include "adopted" members. McAdoo (1980) found that 70 per cent of the black mothers surveyed had "fictive kin" as children; 71 per cent of those relationships had continued into adulthood.

Sudakarsa (1980) and Martin and Martin (1978) emphasize that the black extended family is not a collection of nuclear families. " [I]n many cases, single family households are only part of larger family structures" (Sudakarsa 1975). Even in what appears to be a nuclear family, "there is a greater likelihood of black two-parent families to interact with extended family than their white counterparts" (Wilson 1986, p. 254). In addition, what appears to be a "broken home" may only be a component of an extended family.

Only by considering the extended family in its entirety can black family structure be understood. Because black subculture has a broader notion of family than mainstream white culture, the term "family" must include the notion of kin living at different residences, which we designate the "extended family network". In this paper, the term "household" will be used to refer to a group (both relatives and nonrelatives) living in the same residence.

The interactions within black extended family networks are likely to be more complex than those within the household or the nuclear family unit. In addition, we argue that interactions in black extended family networks differ qualitatively from those in mainstream nuclear families. Interactions within the nuclear family unit are often studied in terms of power and conflict, following Wolfe's (1959) seminal work. We propose that a preferable approach to power and conflict resolution is the mutual exchange framework.

Power and Conflict Resolution vs. Mutual Exchange

Power is related to the household decision process whenever a household member recognizes that his or her own need satisfaction depends on an ability to influence the behavior of one or more other household members. Blau (1964) describes power as an influence "where one induces others to accede to his wishes by rewarding them for doing do" (p. 115). Thus the focus is on satisfaction of one's own needs. A wealth of household studies have focused on power, without taking culture into account (e.g., Burns 1976; Burns and Granbois 1977; Filitrault and Ritchie 1980; Green and Cunningham 1975; Jenkins 1979; Hempel 1972). Power is related to conflict in family consumer choice because individuals will choose to enter into or prolong conflict if they lack the ability to bring to a satisfying conclusion the discrepancies in wants of different family members (Seymour and Lessne 1984). Discrepancies of wants, resulting in a win-lose situation, is assumed.

This orientation contrasts with that of Corfman and Lehman (1987), who define power as a more benign construct, and view conflict as being resolved cooperatively. In this paper, we agree that cooperation is an important component to research in family consumption choice. However, since the adversarial definition of power best reflects the orientation of studies which examine the matriarchal nature of black families (e.g., King 1969; Mack 1971; Willie and Greenblatt 1978), we will also adopt this definition. In this way, we can discuss the literature on black families in a manner consistent with the assumptions of those studies, and also discuss the limitations of this orientation. For example, Martin (1980) notes ". . . the power concept does not provide much of an explanation for outcomes which are not in terms of winning and losing . . . Only under special conditions can families survive when zero-sum hedonistic power confrontations are used as strategies for solving conflicts" (p. 130).

A more appropriate perspective to the study of black families uses the concept of mutual exchange. "Exchange involves 'a transfer of something tangible or intangible, actual or symbolic, between two or more social actors,' implying that each party to the exchange both gives and receives value" (Houston and Gassenheimer 1987, p. 4). Blau (1964) differentiates between social and economic exchange. In economic exchange, the terms of the exchange are given before any transfer takes place. For example, in a buyer-seller economic exchange, the price for a specific product is decided before the product is exchanged for money. Social exchange, in contrast, "involves favors that create diffuse future obligations, not precisely specified ones, and the nature of the return cannot be bargained about but must be left to the discretion of the one who makes it" (Blau 1964, p. 94).

When Martin and Martin (1978) and Stack (1974) regularly refer to mutual exchange relationships within the black family, they are describing social exchange. Rather than focusing on who "wins" in situations of power and conflict, these studies examine exchanges in which all parties involved, and thus the family as a whole, benefit through mutual financial, emotional and material support. By examining mutual exchange, we do not mean to imply that conflicts never occur in black families. Rather, power and conflict occur within the context of mutual exchange. Therefore, this paper focuses on mutual exchange as the framework for the structure of and interactions within the black family extended network.

Frenzen and Davis (1990) incorporate the concept of social exchange into their discussion of embedded markets, which are "markets in which social relations alter market relations" (p. 1). More specifically, "horizontal embeddedness occurs when strong relations bind buyers to other buyers . . . on one side of the market interface" (p. 9). When Frenzen and Davis identify "relatives and close friends" as a potential market segment, they indicate that families are a form of embeded horizontal markets. Study of the black extended family creates an opportunity to assess how social exchanges within horizontal embedded markets affects both family structure and family consumption choice.

BLACK FAMILY CONSUMPTION CHOICE

Using the concepts of extended family and mutual exchange, we can examine in greater detail black family consumption choice. It may be tempting to discuss black family consumption choice in comparison with that of other cultures. We argue that until we study and begin to understand black families themselves, we will not have sufficient bases upon which to make comparisons. Thus, this initial effort will develop propositions which focus solely on black families. Our discussion begins with larger issues of black family structure. We then turn our attention to more specific issues of family member interaction, and individual-level roles in black families.

Overall Family Structure

The first, and perhaps most general, proposition is that consumer behavior takes place in the context of the extended family network. Some researchers have recognized the importance of the black extended family, but have limited their studies to extended families living in a single residence (Angel and Tienda 1982; Nobles 1978; Wilson 1986). In contrast, Taylor (1986) emphasizes the need to study interactions between households.

Proposition 1: Black family consumption choice includes participation both by family members living within the consuming household and family members living in other households.

Proposition 1 leads to methodological imperatives for researchers of black family consumption choice. The household is not the appropriate unit of analysis. In the extended family network, individuals are interconnected across residence boundaries to form a system of information flow and mutual exchange. The nature of the proposed interpersonal interaction suggests that network analysis may be a useful methodology for the study of black families. (See Brown and Reingen 1987; Reingen, Foster, Brown and Seidman 1984; Reingen and Kernan 1986 for reviews of this technique). The individuals who play the key roles in the network can also be identified using network analysis (Martin and Martin 1978).

Although the extended family appears to be the structural norm in black culture, "black families do not constitute a monolithic pattern of familial relationships . . . but vary by social class as do white families" (Willie and Greenblatt 1978, p. 693). _One issue that researchers of black families have addressed is whether the black extended family structure stays intact for families in the middle class, i.e., whether black families become more nuclearized as they move up in social classes.

Two theories regarding the effect of social mobility on the black extended family have been proposed (Brown-Collins 1981; McAdoo 1978). One theory states that the nuclear family is more conducive to social mobility than the extended family. This is because the nuclear family is more geographically mobile, more autonomous, and can use their resources solely for the promotion of their own welfare. This theory would predict that middle class black families would tend to be nuclear; extended family ties have weakened. The opposing theory states that the extended family ". . . promotes social mobility by providing economic resources and social support not available in the small family" (Brown-Collins 1981, p. 36). This theory would predict that the extended family remains intact for middle class black families.

Empirical support for these theories is mixed. McAdoo (1978) studied upwardly mobile black families. She found that both emotional and functional help were received and given. McAdoo found no difference between those born working class, who had moved up to middle class, and those born middle class. Furthermore, those studied ". . . continued their close interaction and help exchange pattern with kin before, during, and after mobility" (p. 775). Thus these families did not "move out to move up"; in fact, some families felt their upward mobility would not have been possible without help from kin. Taylor (1986), in a national study of blacks of varying income levels, found that income was positively correlated with receiving support from the extended family.

These findings appear to contradict those of Martin and Martin (1978), in their study of blacks in small town areas and Kansas City. They found that mutual aid keeps family members out of poverty, but that individuals may find it harder to rise to middle class because they may have to contribute to the family welfare instead of going to school. Martin and Martin also found, however, that middle class family members are expected to help kin. If middle class family members are not willing to share their resources, they become alienated from the family. Alienation can also come involuntarily, as middle class family members change their lifestyles. They may feel distant from family, although they wish to be close.

The different findings of McAdoo (1978) and Taylor (1986) compared with Martin and Martin (1978) may in part be due to different research methodologies. Both McAdoo and Taylor used structured surveys, which focused on exchange relationships which were intact, rather than those which were weakening. Martin and Martin's (1978) unstructured, in-depth approach allowed for more serendipitous findings. It appears that, although the exchange network is present in all social classes, conflicts may arise when some family members move into middle class, while others remain in lower socio-economic classes.

Proposition 2: The black extended family can be observed in all social classes. However, when different members belong to both middle and lower socioeconomic classes, some middle class households may become alienated.

Functions of the Black Extended Family

Scholars studying the black extended family network have suggested a network of mutual assistance, or exchange, between family members. Martin and Martin (1978) found two major functions of the black extended family: leadership and support. "Relatives depend on one another for emotional, social, and - most important - material support." Mindel (1980) found the black extended family help system included more functional forms of help than that of whites and Hispanics. Functional help "involved a variety of mutual aid and support" (p. 26), including advice and monetary support. Similarly, McAdoo (1978) found that both financial and emotional help was received from the family. The combination of material support and advice-giving leads us to:

Proposition 3: The functions of the black extended family include a system of mutual social exchange, including financial support, help with consumption choice, and provision of consumer goods.

A few studies have examined whether the functions of black extended families differ by region of the country or by urban vs. rural residence. Regional differences do not appear to be significant. Aschenbrenner (1973), in her study of black extended families in Chicago, noted that "[s]everal of those who had been born in the South described family relationships and activities there which closely resembled those in Chicago" (p. 259). Taylor (1986), in a national study, also found no difference in receiving support from the extended family between regions in the United States. Nor did he find urban/rural differences. Martin and Martin (1978), however, found that urban blacks relied more on government aid and less on family than rural blacks. Because government aid can not be shared with other family members, the extended family network weakened.

Proposition 4: The black extended family network does not differ regionally.

Proposition 5: Extended family networks weaken when poor urban blacks receive government aid which cannot be shared with kin.

Structure of and Interactions within the Black Extended Family

Social exchange functions within the black extended family take place on two levels: group and individual. On the group level, an individual family member may offer support to the family (through family mechanisms described below) or individual family members. In turn, the individual expects to be helped by the family, rather than by the individual who received their support. On the individual exchange level, a family member offering support to another member expects the recipient to be obligated to return something of value at a later date. Unfortunately, research on exchanges within black extended families often ask respondents about giving and receiving from "family members" (McAdoo 1978,1980; Mindel 1980; Taylor 1986). While these studies offer valuable information about some aspects of black extended family structure and behavior, they do not differentiate between exchange with the family vs. exchange between individuals within the family. Other studies do differentiate between individual vs. group exchange.

Exchange between Individuals and the Family. When an exchange is made between an individual and the family, the individual gives help to the family and expects to receive support in times of need, but not necessarily from the person who received their help. McAdoo (1980) refers to this as the "kin insurance policy". A major provider of support is the dominant family figure.

Dominant Family Figure(s): Martin and Martin (1978) found that at the head of the black extended family was a dominant family figure. This person, who was usually the eldest, was either male or female, or a husband/wife team. Because black women tend to outlive black men, it was often a female. When the dominant family figure(s) die, the role(s) are generally taken over by the family member(s) who seem most competent and appropriate for this role. The dominant family member gives advice and material support. When a husband and wife share the leadership role, one of the major duties of the husband is to "help provide for the family" (Martin and Martin, p. 20); one of the major duties of the wife is to teach family members "how to handle money" (Martin and Martin, p. 20). Martin and Martin (1978) refer to the husband's role as the stabilizer and the wife's role as the organizer. Because of the family leaders' influences on consumption activities of family members, we would expect:

Proposition 6: The family leader(s) is often a "giver" in the exchange network; giving includes consumer goods and advice on financial and consumption choices.

The family leader's home serves as a base household for the extended family. Interactions among family members is frequent. In Martin and Martin's (1978) study, 65 per cent of respondents said they interacted with extended family members at least once a week. In McAdoo's (1980) study, black mothers living within 30 miles of their relatives tended to see relatives at least weekly. However, family members do not have to live in the base household or even be geographically close to be an integral member of the family or to receive support from the family. It is logical to expect that:

Proposition 7: Family members who live closer to the base household interact more frequently in person with other family members, and thus are more likely to receive assistance in the form of small consumer goods and small monetary gifts. For larger monetary gifts, more expensive consumer goods and advice on financial and consumption choices, distance from the base household does not affect the exchange process.

"Momma": As stated above, individuals in the extended family engage in social exchange with the family as a group. The individual who facilitates this exchange process is "Momma". Because "Momma" is often but not necessarily the family leader (Martin and Martin 1978), she will be considered independently of the leadership role. "Momma" acts as an exchange facilitator for the entire black extended family. She receives money from different family members, who have in turn received help from her or other family members. Donations may be given in small amounts on a regular or irregular basis, and/or in times of special need. "Momma" distributes money to family members, as needed (Martin and Martin 1978). Jack (1978) emphasizes that "Momma" is not a matriarch or power figure, but a figure of respect. "Momma" is the spiritual leader of the group. "Her influence comes from persuasiveness in that what she has to say is right" (Jack 1978).

Proposition 8: "Momma" serves as the focal point for the facilitation of monetary exchange within the family. "Momma" is an active participant in family consumption choice. This is especially true in the consumption choices of those receiving aid. Participation may include offering advice on purchases, or buying and offering the goods themselves.

In return for giving to the family, the giver has the knowledge that he or she will be helped in times of need. In addition, the giver receives status in the family (Martin and Martin 1978).

Besides giving to "Momma", individuals may give to other individuals in the extended family, without obligating the other individual to repay the debt. For example, McAdoo (1980) found that the black mothers in her sample, " . . . felt obligated to help poorer members of the family and in turn would expect to be helped by someone who was substantially better off than they were" (p. 143). McAdoo also found that aid in the form of consumer goods and services was generally not expected to be paid back.

When assistance to an individual does not result in the recipient's obligation to reciprocate, this does not mean that social exchange is absent. Rather, the contribution reinforces the giver's membership in the kin insurance system; the family, through Momma or other individuals, will reciprocate in times of need.

Proposition 9: Exchanges take place between individuals and the family in the sense that contributing to another family member places an obligation on the family as a whole, rather than to the actual recipient, to reciprocate.

Exchanges Between Individuals in the Black Extended Family. The operation of the individual exchange network consists of a system of reciprocal obligations among its members. How these obligations are defined and fulfilled may differ across social classes among blacks. In this section, individual exchanges among very poor blacks will first be discussed, and then compared with exchanges among blacks with higher income levels.

A classic study on mutual exchange was done by Stack (1974), who describes an exchange network among very poor blacks that consists of "swapping" or "trading". In swapping, consumer goods are exchanged (as well as services such as child care). While the exchange can be simultaneous, more frequently one good is given in return for an obligation to give something in the future to the initiator of the exchange. Members of the extended family (which include both kin and others defined as kin) will directly ask to be given goods which others own. Swapping is heaviest with closest kin. "Haves" are expected to share with "have nots." Those who take without giving are criticized. Family members may encourage others to whom they are heavily obligated to take something, to better balance the exchange relationship. Swapping appears to be an urban adaptation of the rural cooperative economic system which was once common. In this system, different households in the extended family specialized in one or a few farm products. These products were shared within the family (Shimkin, Louie and Frate 1978). Because the urban poor cannot specialize in production as farmers can, mutual exchange consists of whatever possessions are available.

Proposition 10: Among very poor blacks, individual exchanges are of goods and services. This compares with exchanges among blacks of higher socioeconomic classes, which may not be individual and can, in addition to goods and services, include money.

When mutual exchange consists of exchanging goods and services, family consumption choices are often limited to the possessions of family members. Thus, we would expect:

Proposition 11: When swapping occurs, consumption choices resemble impulse purchases; an item is seen and requested by one family member of another member. Problem recognition and final decision occur simultaneously; there is no search for information regarding alternatives.

For middle and working class blacks, individual gifts of goods and services are not expected to be repaid; rather, as described above, giving of goods and services is considered part of the "kin insurance policy" (McAdoo 1980). However, McAdoo also found that financial gifts are more likely to incur an obligation to reciprocate. Martin and Martin (1978) also note "[m]oney sometimes changes hands in the form of a loan without any serious pressure put on the borrower to pay it back" (p. 30), implying that the absence of obligation in monetary loans is not the norm. It appears that monetary loans sometimes incur a direct obligation, but not always.

Proposition 12: For blacks who are not extremely poor, monetary loans are more likely be considered individual exchanges, incurring obligations to directly reciprocate, than are goods or services.

The prevalence of individual exchange among very poor blacks has important implications for these families' functions and interactions. When Stack (1974) did in-depth ethnographic research in a poor black community, she did not find the extended family structure (consisting of a dominant family figure and "Momma") which Martin and Martin (1978) describe. While this may have been a result of methodological error, there is also a possibility that the structure does not exist among very poor black families. In order to understand why, we need to consider the necessary requirements for the "kin insurance policy" which exists when an individual engages in exchange with the family. As with any insurance policy, something of value is given with the expectation that sometime, perhaps far in the future, the contributor will be helped in times of need. For middle class blacks, for example, help is received from the family when making large purchases (McAdoo 1980). Martin and Martin (1978), who found a kin insurance policy, studied families which were in economic need, but all family members were not living in extreme poverty. For very poor blacks, it is not possible to buy "insurance" from the family as a credit against future needs; the needs of everyday life are overwhelming. Thus, individuals exchange with each other on a daily basis. And, unlike families who are not so poor, in which one can, for the most part, give without expectations of receiving from the recipient because one will be helped by family members who are better off (McAdoo 1980), in very poor families, no one is better off. As Stack points out, "[t]heir social and economic lives were so entwined that not to repay an exchange meant that someone else's child would not eat" (p. 28).

Proposition 13: Among very poor blacks, there is no kin insurance policy and no exchange facilitator; exchanges are between individuals only.

We have developed the above propositions based on the principles of the black extended family norm and the prevalence of mutual exchange in the black extended family. These principles not only guide what should be studied regarding consumption choice behavior in the black family, but also how studies in black family consumption choice should be designed.

METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF BLACK FAMILY CONSUMPTION CHOICE

As mentioned above, research on the black extended family should be through network analysis and not be limited to members of one household. Although potentially time-consuming and costly (Hagestad 1981), this will require the identification of all family members in the network (Brown and Reingen 1987; Reingen, Foster, Brown and Seidman 1984; Reingen and Kernan 1986), including those in special roles (e.g., "Momma"). Data collection would include in-depth interviews with those with major roles in the family (e.g., family leader(s) and "Momma"), and shorter interviews with other family members (McAdoo 1988). An alternative methodology would be through intensive ethnographical observation, as done by Stack (1974). While observation would certainly be a useful data collection method, the need to be accepted as a member of a family may not be a viable one for most researchers. In either case, small sample sizes (in terms of number of families) would be used, due to the extensive interviewing needed. For more specific issues in research design, see Hill (1970).

Researchers of the black extended family should also identify exchanges between individuals vs. exchanges between the individual and the family. For example, questions must be more specific than asking about aid given to and/or received from "the family". Rather, the research instrument should differentiate between: (1) aid received from the dominant family members; (2) aid given to or received from "Momma"; (3) aid given to individuals as part of the kin insurance policy, which obligates the family, but not the recipient, to reciprocate; and (4) aid given to individual family members which incurs an obligation on the part of the recipient to directly reciprocate. In addition, researchers may want to explore the structure of products/services/monetary gifts with regard to these four categories.

For all research, the focus should be on mutual exchange, rather than power and conflict. This is not to imply that there are no situations of power and conflict in black extended families. Rather, power and conflict are not the driving forces which motivate family structure and interactions among family members. Only when the basic structures and interactions of black extended families are better understood should more specific situations, such as conflict resolution, be explored.

CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE PROPOSED FRAMEWORK TO FAMILY RESEARCH

The framework presented in this paper offers several benefits to consumer researchers who are interested in the effect of subculture on family consumption choice. First, this framework allows better understanding of black family consumption choice. Study of black family consumption choice must be approached from the black cultural perspective, rather than studied through the filters of white family research.

Secondly, this framework can serve as a reminder of the need to relinquish the filters of white family research for all research on family decision making in subcultures. Two principle components of this framework, mutual exchange and extended family, which are important for the understanding of black family consumption choice, may or may not be applicable to other subcultures. Researchers of other subcultures will need to identify the appropriate structure and functions of the family in each subculture.

Finally, the propositions set forth in this paper may be used to approach white family consumption choice in a new light. In addition to subcultural influences, the extended family was an area identified during first Association for Consumer Research - Household Consumption Behavior Session (Burns and Gentry1988) as one needing research to further develop knowledge in household theory. Willie and Greenblatt (1978) note "[t]he traditional two-parent nuclear family was never the only viable family unit in Western culture, and in our rapidly changing society, it can no longer be viewed as the ideal arrangement which all families should be encouraged to emulate" (p. 694). The white extended family may operate differently than the black extended family; more research is needed. Equally important, the concept of mutual exchange, rather than power and conflict, should be considered an alternative perspective when approaching the study of white family consumption choice. Perhaps in the post-machismo era, a kinder and gentler approach to family consumption choice is needed.

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