Conflict in Family Purchase Decision Making: a Proposal For an Investigation of the Factors Influencing the Choice of Conflict Resolution Strategies By Children

ABSTRACT - The objective of this study is to develop a model of the factors influencing the choice of conflict resolution strategies by children in family purchase decision making. The model is developed through the investigation and critical analysis of past studies, and hypothesises that a child's choice of a resolution strategy is dependent upon family structure, parental style, family communication patterns, product type, and situational factors. It is further proposed that the probability of successful conflict resolution in family purchase decision making is related to the child's choice of a conflict resolution strategy. This model attempts to integrate past findings into an interactive framework where clear relationships can be drawn.



Citation:

Melissa Johnson, Janelle McPhail, and Oliver H.M Yau (1994) ,"Conflict in Family Purchase Decision Making: a Proposal For an Investigation of the Factors Influencing the Choice of Conflict Resolution Strategies By Children", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 229-236.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Pages 229-236

CONFLICT IN FAMILY PURCHASE DECISION MAKING: A PROPOSAL FOR AN INVESTIGATION OF THE FACTORS INFLUENCING THE CHOICE OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES BY CHILDREN

Melissa Johnson, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Janelle McPhail, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Oliver H.M Yau, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong

ABSTRACT -

The objective of this study is to develop a model of the factors influencing the choice of conflict resolution strategies by children in family purchase decision making. The model is developed through the investigation and critical analysis of past studies, and hypothesises that a child's choice of a resolution strategy is dependent upon family structure, parental style, family communication patterns, product type, and situational factors. It is further proposed that the probability of successful conflict resolution in family purchase decision making is related to the child's choice of a conflict resolution strategy. This model attempts to integrate past findings into an interactive framework where clear relationships can be drawn.

INTRODUCTION

The primary objective of this research is to develop a model of the factors influencing a child's choice of a conflict resolution strategy in family purchase decision making, as a behavioural representation of one component of family consumer behaviour.

Analysis of previous research allows for the justification and development of this model, where a review of the theoretical and empirical work concerning family purchase decision making identifies gaps in our understanding of both the relevance of children in family decision processes, and the actual behaviour of family members in purchase decision making. The development of the model through this review process will be outlined here.

BACKGROUND

It has taken some time for consumer decision research to acknowledge the family as a central consuming group. A large obstacle in this metamorphosis was the realisation that family decision types, processes and determinants were not merely an aggregation of individual purchase behaviours. The focus of family consumer research in the past has centred around the dyadic relationship of husbands and wives, and ignored the impact that children have on family purchase decision making. Past studies of purchase decision making in families has also largely measured abstract concepts such as power and influence, rather than concentrating on the tangible consumer behaviours of family members in purchase decision processes.

More recently, a transition can be seen away from the dyadic definition of the family, towards consideration of multiple participant decision making. Whereas earlier studies on family decision making only really examined spousal interaction (Davis 1976, Burns 1977, McDonald 1980), greater importance is now being placed on the role and impact of children in decisions (Belch, Belch and Sciglimpaglia 1980, Moschis and Mitchell 1986, Foxman and Tansuhaj 1988). However, the triadic interaction of mother, father and child in family decision making is still a relatively unexplored area, and the research that has been carried out has developed ad hoc with limited attempts made to integrate concepts.

A large proportion of the research in this area concentrates on measuring the amount of influence that children have in family purchase decision making (Mehrotra and Torges 1977; Szybillo and Sosanie 1977; Jenkins 1979; Nelson 1979; Roberts, Wortzel and Berkeley 1981; Darley and Lim 1986; Isler, Popper and Ward 1987; Foxman and Tansuhaj 1988; Foxman, Tansuhaj and Ekstrom 1989). While all these studies confirmed that children have at least some influence in decisions for an array of purchases, very little attempt has been made to define "influence". Past studies have also obtained little more than perceptive measures of relative involvement in family decision making, rather than modelling the interaction of members, and analysing the relationships between family processes and resultant behaviours. Static measures of perceived influence only describe the individual motives and actions of family members and not the dynamic interaction of these members. Analysis of the triadic interaction of mothers, fathers, and children in family purchase decision making should examine both family and consumer factors, and should include some measure of both the action and reaction of family members. Measures of individual influence (action) do little to explain the actual effect this has on family processes or the decision made (reaction).

Conceptual models such as Sheth's (1974) Theory of Family Buying Decisions provide a useful basis on which to build future research. However, the sheer complexity of Sheth's (1974) model in particular means that empirical and theoretical justice of concepts is more likely if the components are broken down and their contingency and integration tested systematically, in the family environment, among family members. Understanding the interaction of family members in making purchase decisions also requires that the broader operating environment is understood. Included in the operating environment of family decision making are the macro-structural components of the family, and the micro-relational components which include those factors that individual members bring with them to the interaction, and those which manifest as a result of interaction. One component of Sheth's (1974) model which allows for analysis of both the operating environment of the family, and their consumer interaction, is family purchase conflict.

Understanding household conflict is critical to understanding the dynamics of household decision behaviour and the decision strategies employed in family decision making (Davis 1976, Qualls and Jaffe 1992). The study of conflict resolution processes in particular, is an area which involves both the interactive and behavioural dimensions of family decision making which is lacking in many other areas of this field. Granbois (cited in Qualls 1988), has long contended that household conflict behaviour better reflects the dynamic process of family decision making than more traditional input-outcome models of family decision making.

The concentration on measurement of "influence" of members in family decision making has resulted in findings which are abstract and unexplained in relation to their dependent state. This may largely be due to the attempts at analysing the family decision making process as a general concept, instead of the total of many component parts. One of these component processes is the resolution of conflict. Conflict resolution in family purchase decision making represents an interactive and behavioural process. Factors which may be expected to impact upon decision making in general could be more easily analysed by concentrating first on their relationship to specific behavioural processes. It may be that analysis of limited but specific and definable behavioural variables, such as conflict resolution strategies, are a more constructive focus than abstract measures of "influence".

Conflict resolution is a process where mothers, fathers and children interact under the influence of family environment variables, and given certain product and situational factors. By analysing the relationship between the choice of conflict resolution strategies by children, and those factors to date which have been found to have impacted upon family decision making in general such as family communication patterns and parental style, an attempt is being made to integrate and relate the factors and processes of family purchase decision making in a behavioural and interactive method.

The purpose of this study is to operationalise those factors found significant to family purchase decision making in previous studies, which can be applied to the behavioural processes of purchase conflict resolution in a model which can then be tested. The component analysis of family purchase decision processes, one of which is conflict, may be a necessary research focus if an eventual comprehensive understanding of the whole process is to be gained.

A MODEL OF THE FACTORS INFLUENCING THE CHOICE OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES BY CHILDREN IN FAMILY PURCHASE DECISION MAKING

Perhaps due to the complexity of group buying and consumption, past research has tended to take a static view of family purchase decision making using mainly aggregate measures of household behaviour. Factors such as power, sex roles, and attitudes, have all failed to adequately explain family decision processes and behaviours, largely due to their abstract nature. The design of past research has also slowed the progress of our understanding. By focusing on dyadic samples of mothers and fathers (or husbands and wives) only, and trying to infer that this is representative of the whole family, there now exists a largely descriptive and hypothetical body of knowledge in this area.

The logistics of sampling both mothers, fathers and children have undoubtedly deterred many researchers. However, it is the abstract nature of what has been tested, more than the triadic sampling requirements, which has detracted from past studies. Models of family buying behaviour involve many interrelated processes, components, and participants, and cannot be expected to be tested in a holistic manner. In an attempt to do just this, past studies have found little explanatory value in testing the influence of only one variable on the whole family purchase decision making process. Given the groundwork that has already been completed in this field, it would seem that the task now is to break family purchase decision making down into its' smaller component parts, and examine the behavioural and interactive elements of the process. The practice of sampling only mothers and fathers in family purchase decision making is logistically justifiable but conceptually unacceptable, and future studies should aim at examining triadic relationships including mothers, fathers and children.

When examining family buying behaviour, two broad sets of variables are essential, (1) family processes and behaviour, and (2) purchase and consumer variables. Examining one component part of family purchase decision making and the effect that these two sets of variables have on the behaviour of family members in purchase decision making, would help to close the gap that currently exists in this area. Conflict resolution is one component part of family purchase decision making that remains relatively unexplored, represents a process that can be analysed using both behavioural and purchase variables, and that requires triadic interaction and therefore analysis of both mothers, fathers, and children.

A model of conflict resolution strategies used by children in the family purchase decision making process has been developed in response to this lack of conceptual and empirical understanding of triadic interaction in decision process components.

The model as seen in Figure 1, hypothesises that a relationship exists between family structure, family communication patterns, and parental style, and the choice of conflict resolution strategies in purchase decision making by children in that family. Two consumer/purchase factors seen to intervene in that relationship are product type and situational factors. The probability that the chosen resolution strategy will in fact be accepted by the mother and father, and the conflict resolved (e.g. decision is made), is proposed to be a factor of the alignment between the family variables (family structure, parental style, family communication patterns) and consumer variables (product type, situational factors), and the actual strategy chosen.

CHOICE OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES BY CHILDREN-THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE

The term "conflict" in this study is not meant to portray abusive, violent, aggressive or physical activities. Rather, conflict is present anytime when family member's goals and perception of alternatives, in a particular situation, differ from one another's. Family purchasing represents a situation where member's motives, goals and objectives will differ, given the individual buying behaviour they bring to group or family situations. This conflict is not always overt, and may be either passively or actively expressed. The 'decision' element of family purchase decision making does however infer selection of some alternative, and the decision process itself is therefore a mechanism to resolve conflict. These attempts to resolve conflict are tactically different (Sheth 1974), and are evident in the behavioural activities that members engage in, known as conflict resolution strategies.

The dependent variable in this model is the choice of one of five (5) conflict resolution strategies by children in family purchase decision making. The five-fold typology of resolution strategies on which the model is based, is an extended version of the typology proposed by Sheth (1974). Problem solving, persuasion, bargaining, and politics, were proposed by Sheth (1974) to be the four strategies which family members have available to them in order to resolve conflict. The additional strategy included in the model is that of conflict avoidance. Sheth's (1974) classification does not include this strategy, however using the four-fold classification accounts for only active resolution of conflict through some overt behaviours. Buss and Schaninger (1987) report that conflict can be managed in two (2) basic ways, by either avoidance (tactics to reduce conflict) or resolution (tactics to remove or resolve conflict). Using only Sheth's (1974) classification the tendency to merely reduce conflict through avoidance is ignored. The extended typology displayed in the model is an attempt to close the gap between inductively and deductively derived conflict resolution classifications. By broadening the theoretical classification of conflict resolution strategies, a wider scope exists to account for all manifest conflict management behaviours, and therefore operationalise this variable.

Table 1 gives a brief description of each of the five (5) conflict resolution strategies and the behaviours typically associated with each one.

FIGURE 1

A MODEL OF THE FACTORS INFLUENCING A CHILD'S CHICE OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGIES IN FAMILY PURCHASE DECISION MAKING

INDEPENDENT VARIABLES

There are believed to be some generic factors that influence the resolution of all productive conflict, and examination of these broad factors helps to establish the possible linkages between the dependent and independent variables of the model. Deutsch (1973) lists six (6) factors influencing the resolution of conflict including:

1) Process

2) Prior Relationship

3) Nature of the Conflict

4) Characteristics of the Parties in Conflict

5) Estimation of Success

6) Third Parties

The influence of family structure on a child's choice of a resolution strategy in family purchase conflict can be linked back using Deutsch's (1973) basic model. Firstly, it is conceivable that as a factor of process, characteristics of parties involved, and third parties, the elements of family structure (size, and socio-economic status) have the potential to effect the choice of a resolution strategy. For example, some resolution strategies require the presence of others which may be more easily achieved in families of greater size. The socio-economic status of the family may also effect the characteristics of the parties in conflict and in turn the choice of strategies which involve more advanced reasoning and deductive skills.

Parental style is also proposed to effect the choice of resolution strategy as the parent's disciplinary nature can affect the actual process, and is a factor of the characteristics of the parties in conflict. It may be that parental style regulates what is possible in terms of resolution, and therefore what strategies are even available to children. In this regard parental style plays a part in the child's estimation of success. In a similar manner, a family's communication pattern may influence a child's choice of a resolution strategy. Deutsch (1973) maintains that communication dictates the process of conflict resolution.

It has been argued that family communication patterns and parental style are one in the same, or that family communication patterns are really only a subset of parental style. Carlson, Grossbart and Stuenkel (1992) hypothesised that family communication patterns are a subset of parental style in order to enrich the conceptual perspective of these two theories. However, after empirical testing they had to conclude that although there may appear to be some conceptual similarity between family communication patterns and parental style, this similarity does not always translate into links between certain styles and orientations. Despite the relationship found between some family communication patterns and some parental styles, Carlson, Grossbart and Stuenkel's (1992) study is not conclusive enough to allow for the confident removal of the measurement of one of these factors on the basis of the other's inclusion. Until such time that the two concepts can be fully conceptually integrated, and an encompassing measure refined, it is considered necessary here to measure each factor in isolation.

The two consumer variables of product type and situational factors are proposed to be inherently linked to family conflict in purchase decision making. Both the nature of the conflict, and the estimations of successful resolution, are believed to be affected by the product on which the decision is based, and the situation in which the decision is being made. For example, a child's desire to get their own way, and therefore their involvement in family purchase decision making, varies depending on the type of product (Jenkins 1979; Ekstrom, Tansuhaj and Foxman 1987; Nelson 1979). The centrality of the conflict issue to the child will therefore also vary, which impacts upon the nature of the conflict. Situational factors may also include the presence of third parties in conflict, and as Deutsch (1973) reports resolution processes and outcomes can be affected, both positively and negatively, by their presence.

TABLE 1

FIVE-FOLD TYPOLOGY OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATGIES

Family Structure

Family structure is considered here to be a demographic profile of the family including; the number of members in the family, and the socio-economic status of the family. It is the aggregate profile of the family, rather than individual's profiles which is of issue here, as this family structure provides the framework within which interaction occurs. It is proposed here that a dependent relationship exists between family structure and the child's choice of a resolution strategy:

H1 = The choice of a conflict resolution strategy by children is dependent upon the structure of the family.

No previous research exists regarding the effect of family size on family purchase decision making processes. However different resolution strategies require different levels and intensity of interaction among family members, and it is reasonable to expect that the less children in the family the greater the opportunities for a child to interact with their parents. In addition, both persuasion and problem solving require that the child be able to exert a certain amount of personal power, which may be easier if they are not competing with other children in the family. Whereas other strategies such as politics, require the presence of other family members, for example brothers and sisters. Based on these assumptions the following hypothesis has been constructed:

H1a = The choice of a conflict resolution strategy by the child is dependent upon the number of children in that family.

Social status may effect decision making patterns as well as the development of such patterns (Moschis and Moore 1979). Research in this area in the past has concentrated on the effect of socio-economic status on the consumer socialisation of children. Moschis and Moore (1979) report that children from upper socio-economic backgrounds have greater awareness of, and preference for, commercial stimuli in their consumer environment, and that there is a positive relationship between a child's socio-economic background and their strength of brand preferences.

Past studies have shown that socio-economic factors may help to explain the extent to which children influence family purchase decision making. In particular, social status gives some insight into how overtly and actively children attempt to participate in family decision making.

Ekstrom, Tansuhaj and Foxman (1987) stated that families with higher socio-economic backgrounds may provide better opportunities for influence, and may be more receptive to their children's opinions. Opportunity for, and receptivity to , influence, are factors most likely to be necessary for the use of problem solving and persuasion as conflict resolution strategies.

Roberts, Wortzel and Berkeley (1981) also found that the family's financial status affected the extent to which mothers perceived children as having influenced purchase decisions. Similarly, Atkin (1978) found a difference between social classes in children's attempts to initiate cereal purchases. The amount of child initiation of purchase of breakfast cereals was higher for children from the middle class than for children form the working class. It would seem then that children from upper and middle class families are more likely to behave in a manner which involves active and direct participation in family purchase decision making, while at the same time capitalising on their more advanced consumer skills. The three conflict resolution strategies which most require commitment to active and direct participation are problem solving, persuasion, and politics. Ekstrom, Tansuhaj and Foxman (1987) similarly concluded that children from families of a higher social status are allowed to express their opinions more and therefore exert more influence on decisions in the family.

Based on past findings, and taking into account the need for deductive and comparative consumer reasoning, active participation, and opportunity for direct interaction, in problem solving, persuasion, and politics, the following hypotheses have been constructed:

H1b = The higher the social status of the family, the higher the use of problem solving, persuasion, and politics by children of that family.

H1c = The lower the social status of the family, the higher the use of bargaining and conflict avoidance by children of that family.

Parental Style

In testing the model, parental style will be measured under five (5) different classifications based on those identified by Carlson and Grossbart (1988) including; authoritarian, rigid controlling, neglecting, authoritative, and permissive parents. Carlson and Grossbart's (1988) classifications are able to be applied to this model as they were derived with regards to the consumer socialisation of children, and relate directly to parent's encouragement, acceptance, and allowance of participation in decision making and conflict by children.

The characteristics displayed under each of the five parental styles are proposed to effect the choice of a purchase conflict resolution strategy by children:

H2 = The choice of a conflict resolution strategy by the child is dependent upon the parental style of the mother and father of that child.

Several characteristics inherent in the authoritarian parental style may discourage any active attempt by the child to manipulate purchase conflict resolution in their favour. The discouraging of interaction and enforcement of rules by these parents would make persuasion and bargaining unacceptable. The limiting of the child's autonomy, and the conformity to religious or other standards may also constrain the use of politics by children, and it would also seem unlikely that the reciprocal respect of ideas and opinions necessary in problem solving, would be acceptable to authoritarian parents. The expectation of ultimate authority and unquestioned obedience makes conflict avoidance the most likely choice of a resolution strategy by children under authoritarian control:

H2a= Children of authoritarian parents are more likely to choose conflict avoidance as a resolution strategy than problem solving, bargaining, politics, or persuasion.

Rigid controlling parents encourage little verbal exchange, avoid communication, and demand maturity from their children (Carlson and Grossbart 1988). These parents are similar to authoritarians, however they display a much greater emotional detachment from their children. Children of rigid controlling parents are believed to be less likely to use problem solving, persuasion, or bargaining tactics for the same reasons as children of authoritarians. The less emotional relationship between these parents and their children, and the likelihood that these parents command less genuine respect, is proposed to make politicking rather than conflict avoidance, the more frequent choice by their children.

H2b = Children of rigid controlling parents are more likely to choose politics a resolution strategy than conflict avoidance, problem solving, bargaining, or persuasion.

Neglecting parents neither seek nor exercise much control over their children. They display a relative lack of warmth, restrictiveness, and emotional involvement, have the greatest tendency to avoid communication, do not encourage verbalisation, and show no nurturing tendencies towards their children (Carlson and Grossbart 1988). It is the non-developmental outlook of these parents that suggests their children may not choose a strategy on the basis that it appears constructive or reasonable. It is proposed here that these children are compelled to force decisions, and are not restricted by expectations of logic, constructive communication, or conformity. Such tactics are conducive to the use of persuasion.

H2c = Children of neglecting parents are more likely to choose persuasion as a resolution strategy than politics, conflict avoidance, problem solving, or bargaining.

Authoritative parents direct their children's activities in a rational, issue oriented manner, accept verbal give and take, are willing to disclose the reasoning behind parental policy, and encourage children to express their objections to conformity. The willingness of authoritative parents to confront conflict with their children makes it unlikely that the child would choose a passive resolution strategy such as conflict avoidance or covert tactics such as politicking. While the give and take nature of bargaining as a resolution strategy may be appropriate from their children, it is proposed that authoritative parents would instil in and condone the use of problem solving by their children and therefore this would be the child's preferred strategy choice.

H2d = Children of authoritative parents are more likely to choose problem solving as a resolution strategy than persuasion, politics, conflict avoidance, or bargaining.

Permissive parents display the least restrictive tendencies towards their children, encourage the most verbal expression, are very nurturing, and are less apt to avoid communication than other parents. They also have an underlying concern for their child's rights and desires that corresponds to the tactics of bargaining, where Sheth (1974) suggests that the concept of distributive justice and fairness is dominant. The freedom of these children to stand on relatively equal ground with their parents would also make bargaining an effective and logical strategy.

H2e = Children of permissive parents are more likely to choose bargaining as a resolution strategy than problem solving, persuasion, politics, or avoidance.

Although based on Carlson and Grossbart's (1988) typology of parental styles, no actual measure exists with which to classify families for this proposed study. Therefore, a parental style measurement scale will be developed via a three phase process.

The first stage of development will be to use existing descriptions of authoritarian parents to construct statements representative of their beliefs. Authoritarian parents are considered to be the most extreme disciplinarians and rate most highly on dimensions of restrictiveness, anxious involvement, and hostility (Carlson and Grossbart 1988). The authoritarian parental style is frequently used as a benchmark from which to compare other parental styles. The statements developed will relate to parental beliefs about consumer activities, household functions and processes, discipline, and responsibility. These statements will secondly be tested for their ability to consistently be perceived to represent the beliefs of authoritarian parents. The final stage of development will be to anchor each parental style to a level of agreement with the authoritarian statements. Carlson and Grossbart's (1988) five parental styles are based on Becker's (cited in Carlson and Grossbart 1988) three socialisation dimensions. The extremes on these dimensions, from which the parental styles originated, mean that there is a natural direction and scaling of each style radiating from one extreme.

Family Communication Patterns

The typology of family communication patterns that will be used to test this element of the model is the same as that used by Moschis, Prahasto and Mitchell (1986), Moschis and Moore (1979), Moschis and Mitchell (1986), and Foxman, Tansuhaj and Ekstrom (1989). The four-fold typology, developed by McCleod and Chaffee (1972), includes; laissez-faire, protective, pluralistic and consensual families.

Considering the interactive and behavioural nature of conflict resolution it is reasonable to assume that intra family communication is an important variable. Effective consumer learning has been found to be closely tied to the patterns of communication taking place within the home environment (Moschis and Moore 1979), and that these patterns of communication are an important factor in a child's development of consumer skills, knowledge and attitudes (Ward, Wackman and Wartella 1977). In the absence of any specific research on the impact of family communication patterns in the resolution of family purchase conflict, these previous findings are a sound basis on which to hypothesise that a relationship does exist:

H3 = The choice of a conflict resolution strategy by the child is dependent upon the family's communication pattern.

Laissez-faire families lack emphasis on either concept-oriented or socio-oriented communications, and there is typically little parent-child communication of any kind in this type of family ( Moschis and Moore 1979). Families displaying protective communication patterns stress the socio-orientation dimensions of deference, and the fostering of harmonious and pleasant social relationships. Protective families stress obedience and avoid discussion on conceptual matters. Pluralistic communication environments are those where families encourage open communication and discussion of ideas without insisting on obedience to authority (Moschis and Moore 1979), and where the child is encouraged to explore new ideas. A consensual family environment stresses both the socio and concept-oriented dimensions of communication where the child is encouraged to take an interest in a diversity of ideas, yet without disturbing the family's hierarchy of opinion and harmony (Moschis and Moore 1979).

Analysis of the four types of communication patterns in relation to the tactics and behaviours typical of the five types of conflict resolution strategies, allows logical inferences to be drawn about specific relationships between the two. The following hypotheses have been developed with regards to the association between each of the four family communication patterns, and the choice of a conflict resolution strategy by the child:

H3a = There is a positive relationship between a laissez-faire communication pattern in the family and the use of conflict avoidance by the child as a purchase conflict resolution strategy.

H3b = There is a positive relationship between a protective communication, pattern in the family and the use of conflict avoidance by the child as a purchase conflict resolution strategy.

H3c = There is a positive relationship between a pluralistic communication pattern in the family and the use of problem solving by the child as purchase conflict resolution strategy.

H3d = There is a positive relationship between a consensual communication pattern in the family and the use of bargaining and persuasion by the child as purchase conflict resolution strategies.

The method used successfully by Moschis and Moore (1979) to measure family communication patterns could be used here to classify families according to the four-fold typology.

Product Type

One common source of variation in children's influence in family purchase decision making, which features in family decision making literature, is product type. Studies by Ekstrom, Tansuhaj and Foxman (1987), Isler, Popper and Ward (1987), Darley and Lim (1986), Jenkins (1979), Mehrotra and Torges (1977), and Roberts, Wortzel and Berkeley (1981), all found evidence to suggest that the influence of children in family decision making varies according to the type of product involved. As the choice of a conflict resolution strategy is offered here as an operationalised measure of "influence", it is reasonable to conclude that product type may be an important variable in explaining the differences in strategy choice by children.

Three differing product types, based on Sheth's (1974) divisions according to consumption, are represented in this model. These include: (1) products for the child's own use, (2) products for family use, and (3) products for household use. Based on the findings of past studies it is proposed that product type may account for some variance in the conflict behaviour of children in family purchase decision making:

H4 = The conflict resolution strategy chosen by the child is significantly dependent on the type of product for which a decision is being made.

Situational Factors

Explicit recognition of situational variables can substantially enhance the ability to explain and understand consumer behavioural acts (Belk, 1975). In order to avoid a static representation of family purchase decision making, situational factors have been acknowledged as a potentially dynamic influence in this model of conflict resolution strategy choice. The inclusion of situational factors as a source of variance is well supported, with McCarthy (1977) for example, recognising that it is not only the complexity and nature of the issue and the characteristics of the participants, but also the structure of the situation which determines the course of conflict resolution.

Situation is defined here as being:

"All those factors particular to a time and place of observation which do not follow from a knowledge of personal and stimulus attributes, and which have a demonstrable and systematic effect on current behaviour.." (Belk, 1974, p.157).

Consumer situations are relatively short-term events or happenings and should be distinguished from the macro environmental and personal factors that have a longer-lasting quality. Belk (1975) identifies five different characteristics of situations as being; physical surroundings, social surroundings, task definition, time, and antecedent states. The product type in family decision making research can be further enhanced as an explanatory variable if the characteristics of the situation in which the product is being considered are also defined. Srivastava (1980) states that we must elicit attitudes towards objects within a situation if we are interested in predicting situation specific behaviours.

Few studies with regard to family purchase decision making conflict have given any consideration to the effects of situational factors. Two studies which have included analysis of situational factors are those of Burns and De Vere (1981), and Isler, Popper and Ward (1987). Burns and De Vere's (1981) study concentrated on the effects of situation on husband and wife purchase decision making. Results of their study indicated that husband and wife purchase decision making was quite sensitive to context, particularly the situational characteristics of physical and social surroundings. Isler, Popper and Ward (1987) in their investigation of children's purchase requests and parental responses, found that request location and the presence of others actually affected the behaviour of children. The physical surrounding characteristics will be represented in this study by whether or not the parent-child interaction occurred at home, or while shopping. With specific regard to conflict, Buss and Schaninger (1987) state that decision processes are idiosyncratic to each decision situation and it is these situations which give rise to potential conflict and conflict management.

The inclusion of situational factors in this model serves to demonstrate the multi-dimensionality of family purchase decision making processes. Based on previous studies as outlined here, the situation characteristics chosen to be included are physical surrounding (where the conflict occurs), and social surrounding (who is present when the conflict occurs). Clearly it would be ideal to build situation scenarios that account for all five situation characteristics, in order to examine the sensitivity of context, however it is believed that these two factors represent significant variance to test the overall effects of situation. The relationship proposed to exist between situational factors and the child's choice of a resolution strategy is:

H5 = The conflict resolution strategy chosen by the child is significantly dependent on situational factors.

Beyond the literature which supports this premise, no research exists which allows any specific relationships to be identified between situational factors and specific conflict resolution strategies.

The Probability of Successful Resolution

The probability of successful resolution is an interactive component of the model, which represents a measure of the outcome of the dependent variable.

It is proposed here that the family environment and consumer variables impact upon the probability of successful resolution only as a consequence of the dependent variable. That is, the independent variables impact upon the probability of successful resolution only as much as they impact upon the child's choice of a resolution strategy.

The direct relationship believed to exist between the choice of a conflict resolution strategy, and the subsequent success of that strategy, is:

H6 = The probability of successful resolution is dependent upon the choice of a conflict resolution strategy by the child.

This model has been developed in response to a lack of conceptual and empirical understanding of triadic interaction in decision process components.

CONCLUSION

A review of past research on family purchase decision making has highlighted a number of factors that have proven to be important or influential in the family decision making process. However, deficiencies still exist in this area of investigation. In particular there exists a lack of interactive and behavioural research on family purchase decision making and a need to represent the family by at least triadic rather than dyadic relationships. Conflict resolution as an integral component part of family purchase decision making is an area in which little research has been done, but an area where potential explanatory value is high.

A model of the use of conflict resolution strategies by children in family purchase decision making has been developed here, by integrating factors from the literature, in an attempt to build on areas of shallow understanding in this field. It is hoped that the model will bring together many previously existing concepts in a manner which includes children both conceptually and empirically.

The model proposes that a child's choice of conflict resolution strategy is dependent upon the structure of the family, parental style, family communication patterns, product type and situational factors. The five conflict resolution strategies which children may choose from include; persuasion, problem solving, bargaining, politics, and conflict avoidance. The probability that the conflict will be successfully resolved is believed to be associated to the child's choice of one of these resolution strategies.

Past estimations of how much children influence family purchase decision making offers little insight into how marketers may tailor there strategies to capitalise on family decision processes. The information most practical to marketing professionals would be how families relate in order to make purchase decisions, what actual behaviours children display in family purchase decision making, and which variables impact upon their behaviour.

A greater understanding of the behavioural interaction between mother, fathers, and children, in family purchase decision making, would not only highlight strategic windows for marketers, but also dispel unrealistic expectations as to the undefined "influence" of children. Reducing the family purchase decision making process to a network of relationships and behaviours may ensure that the attempts to manipulate this process, by marketers, are realistic.

REFERENCES

Atkin, C.K., (1978), "Observation of Parent-Child Interaction In Supermarket Decision - Making", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42 (4), 42-45.

Belch, M.A., Belch, G.E., & Sciglimpaglia, D., (1980), "Conflict In Family Decision Making: An Exploratory Investigation", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.7, 475-479.

Belk, R.W., (1975), "Situational Variable and Consumer Behaviour", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol.2, December, 157-165.

Burns, A.C., (1977), "Husband & Wife Purchase Decision Making Roles: Agreed, Presumed, Conceded & Disputed", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.4, 50-55.

Buss, W.C., and Schaninger, C.M., (1987), "An Overview of Dyadic Family Behaviour and Sex Roles Research: A Summary of Findings and an Agenda for Future Research", Review of Marketing, (ed) M.J. Houston, 293-323.

Carlson, L., & Grossbart, S., (1988), "Parental Style & Consumer Socialisation of Children", Journal Of Consumer Research, Vol.15(1), 77-94.

Carlson, L., Grossbart, S., and Stuenkel, J.K., (1992), "The Role of Parental Socialisation Types on Differential Family Communication Patterns Regarding Consumption", Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol.1 (1), 31-52.

Davis, H.L., (1976), "Decision Making Within The Household", Journal Of Consumer Research, Vol.2 (4), 241-260.

Davis and Cosenza, (1988), Business Research for Decision Making, 2nd edn., PWS Kent, Boston.

Darley, W.K., & Lim, J., (1986), "Family Decision Making In Leisure-Time Activities: An Exploratory Investigation Of The Impact Of Locus Of Control, Child Age Influence Factor, & Parental Type On Perceived Child Influence", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.13, 370-374.

Deutsch, M., (1973), The Resolution of Conflict, Yale University Press, London.

Ekstrom, K., Tansuhaj, P., and Foxman, E., (1987), "Children's Influence in Family Decisions and Consumer Socialisation", Advances in Consumer Research, Vol.14, 283-287.

Foxman, E.R., & Tansuhaj, P.S., (1988), "Adolescents' & Mothers' Perceptions Of Relative Influence In Family Purchase Decisions: Patterns Of Agreement & Disagreement", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.15, 449-453.

Foxman, E.R., Tansuhaj, P.S., & Ekstrom, F.M., (1989), "Family Members' Perceptions Of Adolescent's Influence In Family Decision Making", Journal Of Consumer Research, Vol.15, March, 482-489.

Isler, L., Popper, E.T., & Ward, S., (1987), "Children's Purchase Requests & Parental Responses: Results From A Diary Study", Journal Of Advertising Research, October/November, 28-39.

Jannis, I., and Mann, L, (1977), Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment, The Free Press, New York.

Jenkins, R.L., (1979), "The Influence Of Children In Family Decision Making: Parent's Perceptions", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.6, 413-418.

McCarthy, H. (1977), "Some Situational Factors Improving Cognitive Conflict Reduction and Interpersonal Understanding", Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol.21, 217-234.

McCleod, J.M., & Chaffee, S.H., (1972), "The Construction Of Social Reality", in The Social Influence Process, (ed.) J.T. Tiedeschi, Aldine-Atherton, Chicago, 43-56.

McDonald, G., (1980), "Family Power: The Assessment Of A Decade Of Theory & Research 1970-1979", Journal Of Marriage & The Family, November, 841-854.

Mehrotra, N. & Torges, S., (1977), "Determinants Of Children's Influence On Mothers' Buying Behaviour", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol. 4, 56-60.

Moschis, G.P. , & Moore, R.L., (1979), "Family Communication & Consumer Socialisation", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.6, 359-363.

Moschis, G.P., and Mitchell, R.L., (1986), "Television Advertising and Interpersonal Influence On Teenager's Participation in Family Consumer Decisions", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.13, 181-186.

Moschis, G.P., Prahasto, A.E., & Mitchell, L.G., (1986), "Family Communication Influences On The Development Of Consumer Behaviour: Some Additional Findings", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol. 13, 365-369.

Nelson, J.E., (1979), "Children As Information Sources In Family Decisions To Eat Out", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.6, 419-423.

Qualls, W., (1988), "Toward Understanding The Dynamics Of Household Decision Conflict Behaviour", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol. 15, 442-448.

Qualls, W.J., & Jaffe, F., (1992), "Measuring Conflict In Household Decision Behaviour: Read My Lips & Read My Mind", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.19, 522-531.

Roberts, M.L., Wortzel, L.H., & Berkeley, R.L., (1981), "Mothers' Attitudes & Perceptions Of Children's Influence & Their Effect On Family Consumption", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.8, 730-735.

Scanzoni, J., & Polonko, K., (1980), "A Conceptual Approach To Explicit Marital Negotiation", Journal of Marriage and The Family, February, 31-44.

Sheth, (1974), "A Theory Of Family Buying Decisions", in J.N.Sheth, (ed.), Models Of Buyer Behaviour: Conceptual, Quantitative & Empirical, Harper & Row, New York, 17-33.

Sillers, A.L. (1981), "Attribution and Interpersonal Conflict Resolution", New Directions in Attribution Research, Erlbaum, New Jersey.

Srivastava, R.K., (1980), "Usage-Situational Influences on Perceptions of Product Markets: Response Homogeneity and Its Implications for Consumer Research", Advances in Consumer Research, Vol.7, 644-649.

Szybillo, G.J., & Sosanie, A.S., (1977), "Family Decision Making: Husband, Wife & Children", Advances In Consumer Research, Vol.4, 46-49.

Ward, S., Wackman, D.B., & Wartella, E., (1977), How Children Learn To Buy, Sage Publications, California.

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

Authors

Melissa Johnson, University of Southern Queensland, Australia
Janelle McPhail, University of Southern Queensland, Australia
Oliver H.M Yau, City Polytechnic of Hong Kong



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994



Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More

Featured

C7. The Visually Simple = Healthy Intuition and Its Effects on Food Choices

Yan Wang, Renmin University of China
Jing Jiang, Renmin University of China

Read More

Featured

Psychological Reactions to Human Versus Robotic Job Replacement

Armin Granulo, Technical University of Munich
Christopher Fuchs, Technical University of Munich
Stefano Puntoni, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Read More

Featured

Communicating Limited Financial Resources Increases Perceived Trustworthiness and Interpersonal Connection

Grant E. Donnelly, Harvard Business School, USA
Anne Wilson, Harvard Business School, USA
Ashley V. Whillans, Harvard Business School, USA
Michael Norton, Harvard Business School, USA

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.