Determinants of Marital Power in Decision Making

Cynthia Webster, Ph.D., Mississippi State University
ABSTRACT - Background, personality, and couple-related variables as possible explanations for marital roles in purchase decision making are explored for both wives and husbands. Marital roles in decisions reflecting various levels of purchasing involvement were related to component-score variables through discriminant function analysis. The most important factor for wives in determining the role structure for high-involvement purchases is modernity in sex-role orientation, whereas for husbands, the most powerful determinant is confidence in spouse. For both wives and husbands, the confidence in spouse factor is most important in determining relative influence for low-involvement purchases.
[ to cite ]:
Cynthia Webster (1995) ,"Determinants of Marital Power in Decision Making", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 717-722.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 717-722

DETERMINANTS OF MARITAL POWER IN DECISION MAKING

Cynthia Webster, Ph.D., Mississippi State University

ABSTRACT -

Background, personality, and couple-related variables as possible explanations for marital roles in purchase decision making are explored for both wives and husbands. Marital roles in decisions reflecting various levels of purchasing involvement were related to component-score variables through discriminant function analysis. The most important factor for wives in determining the role structure for high-involvement purchases is modernity in sex-role orientation, whereas for husbands, the most powerful determinant is confidence in spouse. For both wives and husbands, the confidence in spouse factor is most important in determining relative influence for low-involvement purchases.

Although the importance of husband-wife decision making is well acknowledged in the psychological, sociological, and marketing literatures (e.g., Davis and Rigaux 1974; Corfman 1991), there have been few attempts to uncover explanations for marital power. In the main, three major theoretical tenets purporting to explain relative influence in decision making have been developed: resource theory, ideology theory, and involvement. Resource theory asserts that "the balance of power will be on the side of that partner who contributes the greatest resources to the marriage" (Blood and Wolfe 1960). Generally, husbands have had more power than wives because they have possessed more resources in the marriage (i.e., education, monetary contribution, occupational prestige, etc.). This theory has been supported in studies that found a significant relationship between marital power and education (Hempel 1975; Munsinger, Weber, and Hansen 1975; Rosen and Granbois 1983; Woodside 1975), job status (Hempel 1975; Rosen and Granbois 1983; Wolgast 1958; Woodside 1975), wife's reason for working (Rosen and Granbois 1983), whether or not the wife has her own bank account, social class (Rigaux-Briemont 1978), and income (Davis 1976; Green and Cunningham 1975; Huszagh and Murphy 1982; Munsinger et al. 1975; Sharp and Mott 1956; Wolgast 1958).

Rodman (1972) however, interpreted seemingly conflicting findings from different cultures regarding the relationship between the husband's resources and his power. His study suggested that not only do normative definitions about who should have power probably influence who actually does have power, but they also operate as a "contingent variable" influencing the effect that resources have on power. Rodman's synthesis (1967, 1972) referred to as a "theory of resources in cultural context" posits that in less developed societies, resource variables, like education, income, and occupational status, "are not merely resource variables in a power struggle, but are also positional variables in the social structure" (Rodman 1972).

The second theoretical paradigm, sex role orientation, posits that sex role preferences are indicative of culturally determined attitudes (traditionalism/modernity) toward the role of wife/husband in the household (Qualls 1987). Where the sex roles of Anglo-Americans have moved toward either autonomic or eqalitarian roles (Woodside and Motes 1979), the sex roles of U.S. Latin-Europeans are still primarily husband dominant (Canabal 1990). Several studies have found a significant relationship between sex-role orientation and relative influence in decision making (e.g., Green and Cunningham 1975; Rosen and Granbois 1983; Qualls 1987).

Finally, the concept of involvement postulates that the relative influence in a purchase decision is higher for a spouse who is highly involved in the purchase and desires that it reflect his or her individual interests and preferences (Corfman and Lehmann 1987; Qualls 1987). Thus, husbands have traditionally dominated in purchase decisions for such product categories as insurance (Bonfield 1978; Davis and Rigaux 1974; Green et al. 1983), automobiles (Burns and Granbois 1977; Green et al. 1983; Sharp and Mott 1956; Wolgast 1958), and televisions (Woodside and Motes 1979). On the other hand, wives have dominated in purchase decisions for products associated with the homemaker role, such as appliances (Green et al. 1983; Wolgast 1958), groceries (Bonfield 1978; Davis and Rigaux 1974: Green et al. 1983; Sharp and Mott 1956), and washers (Woodside and Motes 1979).

Although these theories have been supported and will not be ignored in the current study, the sociological and psychological literatures hints of other explanations of relative influence in husband/wife decision making such as personality (Sprecher 1986) and factors stemming from one's childhood (Acock and Yang 1986). Furthermore, an ethnographic study conducted by Webster (1992) supported the existing theories (resources and sex-role orientation) and also revealed ten additional explanations of marital power: years spent alone before marriage, childhood spoilness, aggressiveness, willingness to please, self-esteem, locus of control orientation, need for approval, confidence in spouse, decision-making power at work, and importance of marriage. The purpose of the current research is to determine which of these factors are most important in determining relative infuence in decision making for both husbands and wives.

METHOD

The sample consisted of married individuals from a major southern meteropolitan area. Due to the sensitive nature of the questionnaire items, privately questionning respondents was deemed necessary to facilitate frankness. Therefore, the respondents were contacted in their place of employment. To aid in having a representative group of respondents, a sample of firms from a wide range of business types (i.e., restaurants, product repair and maintenance shops, retail stores, manufacturing plants, financial and educational institutions, travel agents, etc.) was first randomly selected. Employees from various levels (from operational to top management) were randomly selected and contacted by telephone for an appointment. If contact with the selected individual could not be made after two attempts, another person was selected. No more than five individuals were selected from any one firm. The sampling process was completed in five weeks.

The interviewers were instructed to approach respondents until contact was made with 175 wives and 175 husbands who met the screening requirements (couples, per se, were not interviewed). The screening requirements were as follows: (1) the spouse had to be married for at least two years; (2) the respondent had to be both willing and confident of their ability to assess his or her own and the spouse's characteristics; (3) the respondent had to complete the questionnaire alone; and (4) with the exception of automobile and housing decisions, the consumer buying decisions had to have been made during the previous three years. From the 350 individuals with whom contact was made, 160 wives and 151 husbands agreed to participate in the study, which yielded 91.4% and 86.2% response rates for wives and husbands, respectively. During questionaire completion, 7 wives and 5 husbands terminated the survey because of either inability or unwillingness to continue. The final sample is comprised of 153 wives and 146 husbands.

The questionnaire was designed to measure marital roles in 25 durable goods/services purchase decisions, the extent to which the married respondent possessed each characteristic relative to his or her spouse, and purchasing involvement for each product. A summary description of each scale is provided in Table 1; references in the Table direct the reader to more detail (and evaluation of measurement issues) for those scales which have been developed and used in previous studies.

Respondents were asked to indicate whether each decision was handled by the wife mostly, husband mostly, or truly equally. To measure the independent variables, individuals were asked about the extent to which they possessed each characteristic relative to their spouse; thus, items were phrased accordingly (e.g., "Relative to your spouse, what is your level of willingness to please others?"). It should be noted that the extent to which a particular spouse possesses a characteristic is not of interest in this study. The objective here was to discover the extent to which one possesses a characteristic more or less than his or her spouse. These items were measured on a five-point scale, where 1="Much less," 2=Less," 3="Same," 4="More," and 5="Much more." Since these five categories refer only to the traits of husband and wife, the response to any given item represents a respondent's perception of the relative characteristic.

Since past research has shown that marital role patterns partially stem from the importance of the product cateogy in question (Davis and Riguax 1974; Ferber 1973; Rosen and Granbois 1983), a method was used to determine whether involvement subgroupings existed within the product decisions. Product purchasing involvement data for all respondents were combined into one pool and factor analyzed. The analysis produced four factors with the eigenvalue greater than 1.0, explaining 76% of the total variance. However, an examination of the varimax rotated factor loadings matrix showed four items with poor (lower than .35) or ambiguous loading values on more than one factor. The subsequent factor analysis excluding these four items produced three distinguishable factors (with eigenvalues greater than 1.0) accounting for 73% of the total variance. The three groups of product categories were labeled as high- , medium- , and low-involvement decisions. The results from this three-factor solution are presented in Table 2.

The subscales of all the independent variables were submitted to a principal components analysis with varimax rotation to produce a set of uncorrelated variates. Twelve components were found with loadings higher than .49.

The analysis was intended to identify spousal characteristics that are important in determining marital roles for low- , medium- and high-involvement product decisions. A three-category coding system designated each product purchasing decision as predominately husband, wife dominant, or equal. A step-wise discriminant function analysis was then performed separately on the data for each of the six types of purchase decisions (from Table 2) to determine which of the independent variables were significant in determining husband or wife dominance in purchase decision making.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Results of the discriminant function analysis were interpreted using a method (Klecka 1980; Rosen and Granbois 1983) to find those variables that were most important in determining marital roles for each of the three decision types. Table 3 shows results for these variables, including the contribution of each to the discriminant function (standarized coefficient), its correlation with the discriminant function (structure coefficient), and the statistical significance of the discriminant function with the listed variables entered (Wilks lambda). The percentage classification accuracy of the discriminant functions ranged from 68 to 89 percent.

An examination of Table 3 shows that most of the independent variables discriminate among the marital role patterns in decision making for the different decision types. The only case where less than half of the components significantly discriminate among marital role patterns is the the effect of the husbands' relative on marital roles for low-involvement purchases. The last column of Table 3 also shows that the independent variables are significant in discriminating among the marital role patterns for each of the three decision situations for both wives and husbands. These findings indicate that there are many other important explanations for marital power in decision making other than the existing theoretical orientations of resource theory, sex-role orientation, and purchasing involvement.

There are some slight similarities in the wives' and husbands' data with respect to the power of the discriminating variables. For example, more factors are significant for discrimating among marital roles for medium-involvement products. Additionally, the factors which are particularly important for both wives and husbands in their discriminating power are relative modernity in SRO, resources, aggressiveness, confidence in spouse, decision-making power at work, and locus of control orientation.

On the other hand, there is a clear distinction between wives and husbands in marital roles among the decision types. First, the relative willingness to please and self-esteem components are particularly strong for wives in discriminating among the marital role groups. Furthermore, relative modernity in SRO has opposite effects for wives and husbands. For wives, it leads to an increase in relative influence. For husbands, however, an increase in SRO modernity leads to a decrease in relative influence. Obviously, as he becomes less traditional in SRO relative to his wife, he becomes less dominant. These findings support those of other studies that found a significant relationship between SRO and relative influence in decision making (Green and Cunningham 1975; Lee 1989; Qualls 1987).

There are both differences and similarities between wives and husbands with respect to the discriminating power of the factors on marital roles for the decision types. For the high-involvement purchase decisions, the wives' relative modernity in SRO, years alone before marriage, self-esteem, decision-making power at work, resources, and aggressiveness leads to joint decision making. And, finally, her relative confidence in spouse, willingness to please, and need for approval leads to husband dominance. Thus, none of these characteristics lead to her dominance for the relatively important product decisions. However, an increase in the husbands' relative traits (i.e., resources) is associated with husband dominance. Joint decision making exists for high-involvement products only when he has a relatively high level of modernity in SRO, need for approval, and places considerable importance on the marriage.

The marital role patterns change for the medium-involvement products. As the traits increase for wives relative to their husbands, wife dominance become the primary marital role pattern, followed by joint decision making. As the traits increase for husbands, wife dominance remains the most prominent pattern (for such traits as willingness to please), followed by joint decision making (e.g., relative childhood spoilness), and then husband dominance (e.g., resources).

TABLE 1

SUMMARY INFORMATION CONCERNING MEASURES USED AND RELEVANT SOURCE REFERENCES

TABLE 2

COMPONENT LOADINGS FOR DECISION CROSS-PRODUCT MATRIX FOLLOWING VARIMAX ROTATION

TABLE 3

STEP-WISE DISCRIMINANT ANALYSIS FOR PRODUCT DECISION MAKING

For the low-involvement purchase decisions, the wives' increase in most of the traits leads to their dominance in decision making. The syncratic marital role pattern is next in importance. On the other hand, as the husbands' traits increase with respect to low-involvement products, his dominance does not surface. Either the decisions are syncratic (as is the case for his external locus of control) or wife dominant (associated with his confidence in the wife and his relative resources).

Though the findings of this study provide insight into the nature of marital roles in decision making, there are related areas that could benefit from research attention. Future research might focus on determining if there are interaction effects of the factors on relative influence in decision making. Further, other analytical methods might be usedCsuch a forward and backward stepwise regressionCto determine if there are significant relationships between marital roles in purchase decision making and the various background, personality, and couple-related factors.

REFERENCES

Acock, Alan C. and Wen Shan Yang (1986), "Parental Power and Adolescents' Parental Identification," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 46 (May), 487-495.

Blood, Robert O. and Donald M. Wolfe (1960), Husbands and Wives: The Dynamics of Married Living, Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Bonfield, Edward H. (1978), "Perception of Marital Roles in Decision Processes: Replication and Extension," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 5, ed. H. Keith Hunt, Chicago: Association for Consumer Research, 51-62.

Burns, Alvin C. and Donald H. Granbois (1977), "Factors Moderating and Resolution of Preference Conflict in Family Automobile Purchasing," Journal of Marketing Research, 14 (February), 77-86.

Canabal, Maria E. (1990), "An Economic Approach to Marital Dissolution in Puerto Rico," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52 (May), 515-530.

Corfman, Kim P. (1991), "Perceptions of Relative Influence: Formation and Measurement," Journal of Marketing Research, 28 (May), 125-136.

Corfman, Kim P. and Donald R. Lehmann (1987), "Models of Cooperative Group Decision-Making and Relative Influence: An Experimental Investigation of Family Purchase Decisions," Journal of Consumer Research, 14 (June), 1-13.

Crowne, Douglas P. and David Marlowe (1960), "A New Scale of Social Desirability Independent of Psychopathology," Journal of Counseling Psychology, 24 (4), 349-354.

Davis, Harry L. (1970), "Dimensions of Marital Roles in Consumer Decision-Making," Journal of Marketing Research, 7 (May), 168-177.

Davis, Harry L. (1976), "Decision-Making Within the Household," Journal of Consumer Research, 2 (March), 241-260.

Davis, Harry L. and Benny P. Rigaux (1974), "Perception of Marital Roles in Decision Processes," Journal of Consumer Research, 1 (June), 51-62.

Ferber, Robert (1973), "Family Decision Making and Economic Behavior: A Review," in Family Economic Behavior: Problems and Prospects, ed. Eleanor B. Sheldon, Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott, 29-61.

Green, Robert T. and Isabella C.M. Cunningham (1975), "Feminine Role Perception and Family Purchasing Decisions," Journal of Marketing Research, 12 (August), 325-332.

Green, Robert T., Jean-Paul Leonardi, Jean-Louis Chandon, Isabella C.M. Cunningham, Bronis Verhage, and Alan Strazzieri (1983), "Societal Development and Family Purchasing Roles: A Cross-National Study," Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (March), 436-442.

Hempel, Donald J. (1974), "Family Buying Decisions: A Cross Cultural Perspective," Journal of Marketing Research, 11 (August), 295-302.

Hudson, W. W. (1982), The Clinical Measurement Package: A Field Manual, Chicago, IL: Dorsey.

Huszagh, Sandra M. and Arthur D. Murphy (1982), "Patterns of Influence in the Purchase of Consumer Durables by Mexican Households," in Educators' Conference Proceedings, Vol. 48, eds., B.J. Walker et al., Chicago: American Marketing Association, 1-6.

Jenkins, C.D., S.J. Zyzanski, and R.H. Rosenman (1971), "Progress Toward Validation of a Computer Scored Test for the Type A Coronary Prone Behavior Pattern," Psychosomatic Medicine, 33, 193-202.

Klecka, William R. (1980), Discriminant Analysis, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Lee, Wei-Na (1989), "The Mass-Mediated Consumption Realities of Three Cultural Groups," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 16, ed. Thomas K. Srull, Honolulu, HI: Association for Consumer Research, 771-777.

Munsinger, Gary M., Jean E. Weber, and Richard W. Hansen (1975), "Joint Home Purchasing Decisions by Husbands and Wives," Journal of Consumer Research, 1 (March), 60-66.

Osmond, Marie W. and Patricia Y. Martin (1975), "Sex and Sexism: A Comparison of Male and Female Sex-Role Attitudes," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 37 (November), 744-758.

Qualls, William J. (1987), "Household Decision Behavior: The Impact of Husbands' and Wives' Sex Role Orientation," Journal of Consumer Research, 14 (September), 264-279.

Rigaux-Briemont, B. (1978), "Exploring Marital Influences in the Family Economic Decision Making," in Research Frontiers in Marketing: Dialogue and Directions, ed. S.C. Jain, Chicago, IL: American Marketing Association, 126-129.

Rodman, Hyman (1967), "Marital Power in France, Greece, Yugoslavia, and the United States: A Cross National Discussion," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 29 (May), 320-324.

Rodman, Hyman (1972), "Marital Power and the Theory of Resources in Cultural Context," Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 3 (Spring), 3-78.

Rotter, Julian B. (1966), "Generalized Expectancies for Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement," Psychological Monographs, 80 (1), Whole No. 609.

Rosen, Dennis L. and Donald H. Granbois (1983), "Determinants of Role Structure in Family Financial Management," Journal of Consumer Research, 10 (September), 253-258.

Sharp, Harry and Paul Mott (1956), "Consumer Decisions in the Metropolitan Family," Journal of Marketing, 21 (October), 149-156.

Sprecher, Susan (1986), "The Relation Between Inequity and Emotions in Close Relationships," Social Psychology Quarterly, 49, 309-321.

Webster, Cynthia (1992), "Towards Furthering the Theoretical Orientation of Husband/Wife Decision Making: A Qualitative Approach," Academy of Marketing Science Conference Proceedings, (April),

Wolgast, Elizabeth H. (1958), "Do Husbands or Wives Make the Purchasing Decisions?," Journal of Marketing, (October), 151-158.

Woodside, Arch G. (1975), "Effects of Prior Decision-Making, Demographics, and Psychographics on Marital Roles for Purchasing Durables," in Advances in Consumer Behavior Research, 2, ed. M. Schlinger, Chicago, IL: Association for Consumer Research, 81-91.

Woodside, Arch G. and William H. Motes (1979), "Perceptions of Marital Roles in Consumer Decision Processes for Six Products," in American Marketing Association Proceedings, eds. Neil Beckwith et al., Chicago, IL: American Marketing Association, 214-219.

Zaichkowsky, Judith L. (1985), "Measuring the Involvement Construct," Journal of Consumer Research, 13 (December), 341-352.

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