An Exploration of the Role of Family Life Style on Selected Behavior Variables

Lucy Chao Lee, University of Illinois
[ to cite ]:
Lucy Chao Lee (1976) ,"An Exploration of the Role of Family Life Style on Selected Behavior Variables", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 03, eds. Beverlee B. Anderson, Cincinnati, OH : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 506-507.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1976      Pages 506-507

AN EXPLORATION OF THE ROLE OF FAMILY LIFE STYLE ON SELECTED BEHAVIOR VARIABLES

Lucy Chao Lee, University of Illinois

Social scientists seem to be fascinated by the idea that a person's life style influences his various socioeconomic behaviors, however complex and subtle is the process of such influence. It is generally recognized that the most intriguing tasks for implementing the idea are: first, to develop a theoretical construct for the concept of life style which can be measured by real data, and second, to test empirically the meaningfulness of the measurement in terms of its effects on behavioral variables.

I would like to share with you the experience that Professor Ferber and I had in measuring, and testing the effect of, family life style of young married couples in two areas of Illinois. The objective of this ongoing study is to measure the dimensions of family life style from an operational point of view, and then to test the significance of these dimensions used alone and in conjunction with other demographic variables, such as stock or purchases of durable goods, financial assets, etc.

The conceptual framework used in this study is to formulate the concept of family life style in very general terms. It is felt intuitively that family life style is, on the one hand, influenced by socioeconomic characteristics of the family and restricted by its given financial resources, and on the other shaped by the goals and attitudes of the members of the family. However, without looking into the multitude of the determinants of family life style, three general dimensions are postulated, as follows:

1. Career orientation

2. Pleasure orientation

3. Home orientation

These three dimensions by no means preclude each other. While a conglomeration of all three may be an axis about which family life revolves, each individual dimension will exert its influence on certain types of behavior of the family as a unit.

The available data are from two panels of young married couples. One panel comprises couples married in the summer of 1968 in the cities of Decatur and Peoria, Illinois, and the other, a younger panel, comprises couples married in the summer of 1972, in the Chicago area; in all cases with the husband 30 years of age or less at the time of marriage. These couples have been interviewed every six or twelve months since their marriage, and a great deal of information has been collected.

In particular, uses of time as reported in the Spring of 1973 by the husband and wife in 11 activities served as the basis for measuring the dimensions of family life style. Table 1 shows that the Decatur-Peoria couples were spending substantially more hours per week on housework and children than the Chicago couples. This is expected, because these couples were married 4 years earlier, and most of them already had children and were homeowners. On the other hand, the Chicago couples were spending relatively more time on job, travel, and visit and entertain. Even so, to some extent we can use one panel as a validation sample for checking the statistical results obtained from the other panel.

To condense the 11 use-of-time variables, factor analysis was applied to their correlation matrix. Three common factors were extracted by the principal axes method, and then rotated orthogonally by the varimax method for better interpretation. Table 2 shows the varimax solution for each panel. Listed under each factor are use-of-time variables in descending order with absolute loadings greater than 0.4; variables with negative loadings are in parentheses. The results indicate that the constituents of the three factors are very similar between the two panels. They seem to fall in line with the 3 postulated dimensions, and are therefore labeled as such.

The next step was to obtain the regression estimates of the factor scores, which were then used as the basis for classifying the families into types or segments. Table 3 lists three criteria for classification that were developed for this purpose. The first criterion identifies each family by the single factor with the highest score. For example, a family which scores highest on career orientation is Classified as leading Type (1) life style, labeled by C, career oriented. Naturally, only three types or segments resulted from this criterion.

The second criterion identifies each family by the order of the three factor scores according to their magnitudes. For example, a family classified by this criterion as leading Type (1) life style labeled by CPH means that the family has the highest factor score on career orientation, next highest score on pleasure orientation, and lowest score on home orientation. Six types or segments resulted from such a permutation.

The third criterion differentiates among the sign combinations of the three factor scores. For example, families with all three positive or zero factor scores are classified as leading Type (1) life style, labeled by +++. By this criterion, eight types or segments are obtained.

The meaningfulness of these three classifications of family life style, and of the factor scores themselves, was tested by using them as four sets of independent variables in separate regression functions for explaining certain behavioral, dependent variables. The dependent variables tested for the Decatur-Peoria panel were stock and purchases of durable goods, financial assets, satisfaction in life and number of children. Only two statistically significant functions were obtained (at the .10 level). Both relate to the third criterion of life style, and they are shown in Table 4. One is number of durables owned, significant at the 10% level, and the other is total debts of the family, significant at the 5% level. Note the significant variables in each function. The beta coefficient of life style Type (6) is positive in the first function, which implies that families with more durables spend relatively more time on pleasure activities but less time on career and home activities. In the second function, life style Type (3) has a negative beta coefficient, which means that families with less debts spend relatively less time on pleasure activities but more time on career and home activities.

The results obtained so far are not spectacular, and yet not unreasonable. Much work has yet to be done.

Other behavioral variables will be used, such as exposure to media, vacation plans, impact of energy crisis of life, etc. We also intend to compare the explanatory power of life style variables with that of the usual demographic variables.

TABLE 1

COUPLE'S COMBINED USE OF TIME (AVERAGE NUMBER OF HOURS PER WEEK), BY PANEL AND ACTIVITY

TABLE 2

VARIMAX SOLUTION FOR 11 USE-OF-TIME VARIABLES

TABLE 3

THREE CLASSIFICATIONS OF LIFE STYLES BASED ON REGRESSION ESTIMATES OF FACTOR SCORES

TABLE 4

BETA COEFFICIENTS OF REGRESSION FUNCTIONS, DECATUR-PEORIA PANEL

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