Roundtable Rethinking Family Consumptionbtracking New Research Perspectives

Karin M. Ekstrom, Goteborg University
[ to cite ]:
Karin M. Ekstrom (2005) ,"Roundtable Rethinking Family Consumptionbtracking New Research Perspectives", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 32, eds. Geeta Menon and Akshay R. Rao, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 493-493.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 32, 2005     Page 493



Karin M. Ekstrom, Goteborg University

Marketers, social policy makers, and consumer advocates have for a long time been interested in family consumption. Even though the influence of family on consumption is pervasive, a review of consumer behavior literature shows a predominant focus on individual behavior. We witnessed an increased interest in family behavior research during the 1970s and 1980s, but have seen a decline during the 1990s (e.g., Commuri and Gentry 2000).

The purpose of this roundtable was to encourage discussion on family consumption as an important area of research and propose directions for future research. The intention was not merely to refocus consumption ongoing in families as a vital area of research, but to track new research perspectives, theories and methods for understanding these issues. Families are culturally determined and subject to change in a continuously changing society. A multitude of family types and different ways to be a family exist. The family is constructed in different contexts where family activities in private as well as public spheres involving continuous negotiations need to be considered. Rethinking family consumption requires rethinking both the concept of family and consumption in a family context.

Stacey (1990) describes the family as a locus, not of residence, but of meaning and relationships. An individual belongs to a social network, part of which can be described as a family in terms of its meaning to the individual. There is a need to consider the plurality of family structures which exist today. A majority of previous family research has focused on decision making. There is a need to consider consumption at large. It is through an understanding of family activities that we can gain abetter understanding of the family life involving consumption and production issues. To what extent does consumption connect or disconnect families? To what extent is consumption in families causing happiness, stress or disruption? A majority of family consumption research has been based on survey research. There is a need to increase the use of interpretive methods in order to gain a better understanding of family consumption. Also, interdisciplinary research is believed to benefit the study of family consumption.

Vivid discussions around the roundtable generated many good ideas for developing research on family consumption and make it more visible on the agenda, both at conferences, in journals, and in books.


Commuri, Suraj and James W. Gentry (2000), "Opportunities for family research in marketing, " Academy of Marketing Science Review,

Stacey, Judith (1990), Brave new families. Stories of domestic upheaval in late twentieth century America, USA: Basic Books Inc.