Patterns of Decision Making Influence For Selected Products and Services Among Husbands and Wives Living in the Czech Republic

ABSTRACT - The data in this study was collected during spring, 1992 from a questionnaire personally administered to seventy-four couples residing in Prague, Czech Republic. The study explores husband and wife roles in decision making in four product and service areas: automobiles, living room furniture, checking accounts and savings accounts. The distribution of husband-wife influence is investigated for each decision and the existence of patterns of influence is explored.


Roger J. Baran (1995) ,"Patterns of Decision Making Influence For Selected Products and Services Among Husbands and Wives Living in the Czech Republic", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Flemming Hansen, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 193-200.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1995      Pages 193-200


Roger J. Baran, DePaul University


The data in this study was collected during spring, 1992 from a questionnaire personally administered to seventy-four couples residing in Prague, Czech Republic. The study explores husband and wife roles in decision making in four product and service areas: automobiles, living room furniture, checking accounts and savings accounts. The distribution of husband-wife influence is investigated for each decision and the existence of patterns of influence is explored.

This study examines husband-wife decision making in the Czech Republic. A survey was conducted in the spring of 1992 in, what was then, Czechoslovakia. Both husbands and wives were interviewed with respect to their influence in the decision-making process regarding the purchase and usage of financial services and durable goods. Specifically, this study reports on two aspects of husband-wife decision making: (1) husband-wife influence in four product and service areas: automobiles, living room furniture, checking accounts and savings accounts. (2) patterns of husband-wife influence across sub-decisions in each of these areas. In addition, results from the Czech study will be compared with results from a study, albeit many years prior, conducted in the U.S. using similar methodology.

I. The Husband-Wife Dyad as a Unit of Analysis

When is it necessary for marketers to investigate the husband-wife dyad to better understand product or service decision making, and when is it sufficient to simply focus on an individual spouse? Numerous studies, beginning with Davis' seminal work, have shown that for a wide array of products and services, many decisions are handled jointly or interchangeably by spouses. When decisions are handled jointly, the dynamics between husband and wife in arriving at an outcome have proven of interest to both marketers and sociologists. When influence is found to be interchangeable, of interest is whether consequences to the family are different if it is the husband or wife who makes the product or service decision. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that the structure of husband-wife influence in a particular product or service area is oftentimes multi- dimensional, involving numerous sub-decisions or a variety of roles husbands and wives can assume in the process of decision making (Davis, 1970a, 1970b; Davis and Rigaux, 1974). Knowing which spouse (or spouses) is (are) responsible for handling one decision oftentimes does not help in predicting how other decisions in the same product or service area are handled; for example, knowing which spouse assumes the suggestor, information-gatherer, purchaser or user role oftentimes does not help in knowing who exerted the major influence on the decision itself.

While some studies have been done cross-culturally in the area of husband-wife decision making (See, e.g., Davis and Rigaux, 1974: Ford et al, 1995; Rodman, 1967; Safilios-Rothschild, 1969), the dearth of such studies is surprising given that one of the basic theories put forth to explain husband-wife influence is cultural and ideological role theory. The theory postulates that authority in the family is firmly anchored outside the individual familyCin the country or system's culture or subculturesCso that the course of interaction between husbands and wives usually leads only to variations in the established authority pattern rather than complete transformations (Blood and Wolfe, 1960; Rainwater, 1965). Through childhood socialization, children develop expectations about appropriate behaviors and attitudes for males and females, as well as husbands and wives. Appropriate behavior and perquisites are built into the roles themselves. This theory states that marital role attitudes and spouses' views about authority of husbands and wives will determine who assumes which role in decision making. Traditional attitudes lead to husband-wife specialization, while companionship attitudes lead to joint or interchangeable decision making and task performance. Culture affects husband-wife roles in the decision making process which will affect which spouse performs certain tasks and makes certain decisions in the home.

Traditional vs. companionship marital role attitudes, and the concomitant marital authority patterns, have been shown to be associated with certain social groupings such as ethnic groups and religious denominations (Rainwater, 1966a; Pettigrew, 1964; Strod- beck, 1951). Sociologists have asserted that because of culturally prescribed marital role attitudes, the Mormon subculture could be characterized as a patriarchy and the Navajo subculture could be characterized as a matriarchy (Strodbeck, 1951). Patriarchal value systems have been said to characterize many Third World nations such as India, while egalitarian value systems are said to be found in more economically developed nations, such as the Scandinavian countries (Sullivan and O'Connor, 1988). Chinese society is said to be male dominated, with women being relegated to "objects" or property. In a recent study, Ford and others found that U.S. females reported significantly more "wife decides" and joint decisions than did their Chinese counterparts (Ford, et al, 1995).

2. Czech Culture and its Effects on Husband-Wife Decision Making

The Czech Republic, being a developing country and primarily rural, might be expected to have husbands and wives with more traditional attitudes toward marital roles than a country like the United States which is more economically developed and more urban. Consequently, it is expected that more joint decision making (egalitarianism) will be found in the United States than in the Czech Republic; while in the Czech Republic, more traditional attitudes will prevail. In addition, it is expected that in both countries, cultural role prescriptions will lead to more joint decision making in "neutral" products/services such as checking and savings accounts when compared to traditional male (automobiles) and tradition female (furniture) products.

As a country in transition from a centrally-planned economic system to a free-market system, the Czech Republic provides a unique environment in which to study husband-wife decision making for many reasons. The entire economic, political and social macro-structure was at the height of change in spring, 1992 when the survey was conducted. As the centrally planned economy moved toward a freer market orientation, families were faced with making more decisions in areas where fewer decisions existed before. In addition, the Czech government was in the process of allocating to each and every family $9 billion worth of state property and offering it to the people as shares in whatever industry and company they desired. Any Czech wanting to participate would buy a coupon book for about 1,000 crowns ($35)Cabout four days' wages. Each booklet had 1,000 points and each citizen could invest the points in particular companies or in investment funds that would choose the investments for him/her. In effect, $9 billion worth of state property was privatized for coupon holdersCbut not every state company selected would bring profits. It was against this back-drop that the survey on financial services and durable goods purchases was administered.



3. Structure of Husband-Wife Influence Within Product and Service Areas

Published research in marketing on family decision making has shown that the amount of husband-wife influence will vary according to the type of product or service investigated. In the purchase of major durables, (Cunningham and Green, 1974) and for housing purchases (Blood and Wolfe, 1960; Cunningham and Green, 1974; Davis and Rigaux, 1974; and Hempel, 1974) a high degree of joint decision making has been found. Whereas wives have been found to have greater influence than husbands on decisions regarding household bill payments and family savings (Komorovsky, 1962; Sharp and Mott, 1956; and Young and Willmott, 1957).

This study focuses on husband-wife influence on decisions within four areas: automobiles, living room furniture, checking accounts, and savings accounts. This will enable exploration of the two research questions of interest: (1) the distribution of relative influence for each decision and (2) the distribution of relative influence across all sub- decisions in each product and service area (i.e., what are the patterns of husband-wife influence). The set of decisions in each product/service area that will be investigated in this study are shown in Table I.

The set of decisions and decision areas in Table I have certain characteristics worth noting. They demand important consideration by at last one family member. The automobile and furniture decisions would undoubtedly be classified as major economic decisions and allow for comparisons with previous studies (Davis, 1970a; Shuptrine and Samuelson, 1976). And a good place to begin investigating family finances is with the two most common family financial services: savings and checking accounts.

There are numerous suggestions in the literature as to how we can expect these decisions to be "organized" by husbands and wives. There are some who feel that in every family there is only one type of decision making unit, and this unit makes all decisions in all areas. Burgess and Locke (1960) state that all families can be described as being patriarchal, matriarchal, or companionship and that the decision making unit is an individual spouse in patriarchal and matriarchal families, while in companionship families the decision making unit is the husband-wife dyad.

Others feel that one spouse will not make all decisions but state that in each family there are specific areas over which an individual spouse will specialize. Many marketers feel that one spouse alone will not specialize in something as broad as a family's "economic activities," but assert that products form an area of specialization. Consequently, it is oftentimes apparent in marketing strategies that marketers believe that husbands are responsible for all automobile decisions and wives for all furniture decisions.

IV. Methodology

The data in this study was collected during April and May 1992 from a questionnaire personally administered to 74 couples residing in Prague, Czech Republic. The sample in this study is a non-probability sample and the findings should not be projected or generalized to hold for other similar families in the population. The primary purpose is to explore husband and wife roles in decision making in four product and service areas.



Questions relating to the twenty decisions contained in Table I were intermixed throughout the questionnaire to avoid response set. In most cases these questions were answered using a 3-point scale where 1=mainly husband, 2=both ("joint," or "either one" was used where more appropriate) and 3=mainly wife. Previous studies (Davis, 1970a; Davis, 1970b) indicate that use of more categories does not appreciably change the results since husbands and wives do not appear to recall past roles in finer detail. Comparisons are made between the Czech data and data collected using identical questions from 423 couples residing in Chicago in 1974. (Refer to Baran 1981a and 1981b for more specifics.)

V. Findings

A. Relative Influence in Purchase Decisions. This section reports on the amount of husband and wife influence found for each of the twenty decisions listed in Table I. If it is found that there is little joint influence among Czech husbands and wives, then an individual spouse should be the unit of analysis rather than the couple. But if it is found that these decisions are handled jointly or interchangeably by spouse, then the couple is the appropriate unit of analysis. Tables II and III show the distribution of wives' and husbands' responses to questions about their influence in the twenty decisions. In Table II, the decisions are listed in order of decreasing wife influence based on the percentage of wives stating that they alone are the ones making the decision. Husbands' responses are reported in Table III following the same order of decisions established in Table II. The three influence categories add to 100%. In the Czech Republic it was also necessary to include two other categories, "not applicable" and "other people". This will be discussed later.



Tables II and III reveal the following:

(1) There is a fair amount of jointness among husbands and wives in making decisions across these four diverse areas. The percentage of respondents reporting that the decision was handled jointly (combining the autonomicCsometimes husband sometimes wifeCwith the syncraticCboth together) averaged 43.1% across all twenty decisions (45.3% for all female respondents and 40.8% for all male respondents). This compares with an average of 52% in the U.S. sample (53.7% for all female respondents and 51% for all male respondents).

(2) Joint decision making was the highest for the six furniture decisions (averaging 59.9% for all female respondents and 54.1% for all male respondents). The U.S. women were 5% more likely to report jointness and U.S. men 2% more likely than their Czech counterparts. The lowest amount of joint decision making in the Czech Republic was for the six automobile decisions (averaging 30.7% for all female respondents and 31.8% for all male respondents). This was true also in the U.S. except U.S. wives reported 12% more jointness, as did U.S. men, when compared with their Czech counterparts.

(3) With respect to savings and checking decisions, for female respondents, joint decisions averaged 46.4% and 44.4% for the four savings and four checking decisions and for male respondents the corresponding averages were 34.8% and 40.4%. U.S. husbands and wives both reported about 10% more joint involvement than their Czech counterparts in both financial service areas. The amount of joint involvement found in the Czech Republic in the traditionally "male" area of automobiles and traditionally "female" areas of furniture suggests the importance of the husband-wife dyad as the unit of analysis.

(4) While the joint response is relatively high across the twenty decisions, for most of the decisions there is considerable spread over all influence categories.



B. Patterns of Relative Influence. The emphasis in this section is upon the pattern of husband-wife influence across all the decisions in each product/service area. If reasonably large segments of families could be characterized as having similar patterns, marketers could develop and direct marketing strategies at these segments and better insure selection of the appropriate spouse in their marketing research studies. For example, this study examined husband-wife influence for four savings account decisions. Marketing strategies of financial institutions could differ in many respects toward a segment in which the wife unilaterally makes all four decisions versus a segment in which all four decisions are made by the husband himself or another segment in which all four decisions involve both husbands and wives (the three unidimensional patterns). Of course, other patterns within a product-service area could indicate some decisions shared while others are handled unilaterally by either spouse. Commonly occurring patterns in a product/service area could be considered market segments based on family decision making types.

Tables IV to VII list the patterns of roles found for automobiles, furniture, savings accounts, and checking accounts. As expected, joint decision making, across all decisions in each product/service area is more common among U.S. versus Czech couples in all four product/service areas: 38% vs. 19% for autos, 55% vs 42% for furniture, 46% vs. 32% for savings accounts and 39% vs. 22% for checking accounts. In both countries, it may be mythical that wives control the family purse-strings for if family finances are not shared, it is far more likely to be the husband than the wife who makes the checking and savings decisions. Given the large number of unique possible patterns in each of the four areas, significant proportions of families do exhibit uni-dimensional patterns which offer segmentation possibilities. All decisions being made unilaterally by the husband, wife, or by the couple themselves totaled 20% for automobiles, 22% for furniture, and approximately 25% for both savings and checking accounts. However, the majority of families (particularly in the Czech Republic) are classified into such a large variety of unique patterns that segmentation strategies developed on the basis of family "types" of influence patterns are not feasible.



The results indicate that one must be careful in simply extending a survey instrument developed and applied successfully in one culture to that of another. Questions which worked well in Chicago did not work as well in Prague. For example, in Prague it was common for a third party to decide on the color of the couple's auto because very often they bought a used car in which case color was not a directly relevant decision area; or they went to a dealer and bought whatever car was available. In addition, when it came to buying furniture, oftentimes there were no style, item, price or where- to-buy decisions to be made. There was seldom any money for furniture so it was customary for the parents to hand down expendable furniture to the newly married couple. They took what was given to them. Who made these decisions was irrelevant in the Czech Republic.

Clearly much remains to be done in cross-cultural studies of family decision making. A first step is not to think ethnocentrically and a second step is to select an appropriate domain of decision areas which are equally applicable in different cultural settings.






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Roger J. Baran, DePaul University


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1995

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