Compulsive Behavior: a Framework For Identifying Children At Risk

ABSTRACT - Consumer researchers have increasingly become interested in studying various forms of consumer behaviors that are considered abnormal or undesirable (clubbed under the broad head of compulsive behavior). Though compulsive behavior tends to vary across social and demographic factors, the foundation for compulsive behavior is often established in childhood. This study developed a framework to identify and estimate the children who are at risk of compulsive behavior.



Citation:

Pingali Venugopal (2002) ,"Compulsive Behavior: a Framework For Identifying Children At Risk", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 127-129.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 127-129

COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR: A FRAMEWORK FOR IDENTIFYING CHILDREN AT RISK

Pingali Venugopal, XLRI, India

ABSTRACT -

Consumer researchers have increasingly become interested in studying various forms of consumer behaviors that are considered abnormal or undesirable (clubbed under the broad head of compulsive behavior). Though compulsive behavior tends to vary across social and demographic factors, the foundation for compulsive behavior is often established in childhood. This study developed a framework to identify and estimate the children who are at risk of compulsive behavior.

Compulsive behavior is defined as a response to an uncontrollable drive or desire to obtain, use or experience a feeling, substance, or activity that leads the individual to repetitively engage in behavior that will ultimately cause harm to the individual and/or others (O’Guinn and Faber 1989). Compulsive behavior includes drug abuse, alcoholism (Valence et al. 1988), compulsive buying (Faber and O’Guinn 1992) and compulsive hoarding (Marta and Frost, 1997). At one extreme, compulsive behavior may be viewed as a crime (drug abuse). At a somewhat lower level it can be seen as a disease (alcoholism), least negatively it may be perceived as a bad habit (compulsive buying/ hoarding).

Researchers have found association between different types of compulsive ehavior. Compulsive buyers were also found to engage in drug abuse and alcoholism (Hirschman, 1992; Valence et. al. 1988), shoplifting (Norton, Crisp and Bhatt, 1985) and compulsive hoarding (Hyo-Jin et al. 1997, Marta and Frost 1997). Compulsive buyers exhibit a number of personality predisposition’s commonly included among persons exhibiting other forms of compulsive behavior including drug abuse (Faber et al. 1987).

Research on compulsive behavior has been taken up since the eighties. Studies have identified some personality traits of compulsive consumers. Drug addiction as well as in many other forms of compulsive behavior there has been found a strong tendency for persons to exhibit anxiety, depression, low self esteem (Mendelson and Mello 1986; O’Guinn and Faber, 1989). They are non-conformist, independent, and often feel isolated (Mendelson and Mello 1986). O’Guinn and Faber (1989) also found that people indulging in compulsive behavior are high on materialism. Hirschman (1992), Faber and O’Guinn (1992), Rindfleisch et al. (1997) also confirmed the presence of these factors amongst people suffering from compulsive behavior. Researchers have also developed scales to discriminate people at risk of compulsive behavior using the personality traits (O’Guinn and Faber 1989). Though these studies indicate that there are some personality traits that contribute to compulsive behavior, they do not tell us why some people who are high on these personality traits become addicts while others do not (Hirschman, 1992). Hirschman in her study postulated (a) the individual’s inability to establish and maintain some self controlled boundaries lead to long term compulsive behavior and (b) that unless the addicted consumer’s underlying phenomenology of anxiety, depression and alienation is remedied s/he will likely return to addiction. This, therefore suggests that the personality traits (low self esteem ,anxiety, depression and so onBhenceforth termed as compulsive behavior personality traits) form a precondition (necessary condition) and the individual’s self control forms the sufficient condition for compulsive behavior. Similarly, in the Hoch and Loewenstein (1991) framework on addictive behavior depicts a conflict between willpower and desire.

This study, therefore, specifies two dimensions to identifying people at-risk of compulsive behavior. The necessary condition and the sufficient condition. The environmental factors contributing to compulsive behavior personality traits will form the necessary condition and the individual’s locus of control will form the sufficient condition.

A Conceptual Model:

A Conceptual Model is shown in Figure 1.

Family type: Addictive compulsive personality sub type typically originates in dysfunctional families (Hirschman 1992). Such families are characterized by patterns of alcohol and /or emotional conflict (Leone 1984). Family researchers have demonstrated that children from single parent families have a higher propensity to engage in compulsive activities as compared to children reared by two parents (Cherlin 1992).

Marta and Frost (1997) found compulsive behavior in children, whose parents criticize, doubt their action, have high expectations and are highly concerned about the mistakes made by the children. Quantity of parental supervision, support and guidance is significantly lesser in separated families and families where both the parents are working. More number of children from separated families have therefore been found to be high on compulsive behavior personality traits as compared to children living with both the parents (Rindfleisch et al., 1997). It can therefore be postulated that children where both the parents are working will have higher number of children high on compulsive behavior personality traits as compared to children where only one parent is working.

City type: Depending the city type (adopted fom Holt 1997) life can be condensed into a handful of key adjectives, each ranging from high to low (pace: slow to fast, stress: low to high, competition: low to high, materialistic: low to high). As compulsive behavior provides temporary reduction in stress and tension (Rindfleisch et al. 1997) individuals staying in locations creating stressful conditions will develop compulsive behavior personality traits.

In general, village life can be considered slow paced, low on stress, less competitive and less materialistic as compared to metros where life is fast paced, high on stress, high on competition and highly materialistic. Therefore it can be postulated that percentage number of children high on compulsive behavior personality traits would be lowest from villages and highest from metros. Children from towns, falling in between.

Thus, it is postulated that the compulsive behavior personality trait of children by city type and family type could be depicted as shown in Figure 2.

Modernity: More modern societies like Irish-Americans and English-Americans experience higher rates of alcoholism as compared to the more traditional societies like Jews (Davison and Neale 1986). Thus, it can be postulated that modernity and compulsive behavior traits will be positively correlated.

Locus of control: Peer pressure is frequently used to describe the decision to use illicit drugs and alcohol, especially among adolescents and young adults (Marcos, Bahr and Johnson, 1986). Rose et al. (1992) found that external attributions for a peer group’s behavior are associated with strong dissent than internal attribution. (Internal explanations relate to characteristics of the person: viz. personality, values, attitudes; whereas external explanations pertain to laws or social environment.). "...people have developed broad repertoires for maintaining self control... The most commonly mentioned means of impulse control involves reasoning with one self, that is, increasing the saliency of negative consequences," (Hirschman 1992).

Thus, children high on compulsive behavior personality traits and with internal locus of control are less prone to compulsive behavior.

FIGURE 1

A CONCEPTUAL MODEL

FIGURE 2

Methodology:

The study will be conducted in two phases.

Phase 1: Determining compulsive behavior indicators. O’Guinn and Faber (1989) scale for personality traits of compulsive consumers, Marta and Frost (1997) scale of parental behavior, Rose et al. (1992) scale on attribution and a modernity scale would be adopted for the study. The adopted questionnaire would be administered both on persons suffering and not suffering from compulsive behavior to set discriminatory scores for compulsive behavior personality traits. Respondents suffering would be selected from self declared addicts (a methodology adopted in earlier studies, e.g.. O’Guinn and Faber, 1989, Hirschman 1992).

Phase 2: Identification/ Estimation. Respondents would be administered the questionnaire (as in phase 1) and a locus of control questionnaire to identify children at risk of compulsive behavior. Respondents representing the different family and city type would provide an estimate of children at risk of compulsive behavior.

REFERENCES

Cherlin, Andrew (1992). Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, Cambridge,MA.

Davison, Gerald C. and John M. Neale (1986). Abnormal Psychology. Wiley, NY.

Faber, Ronald J. and Thomas C. O’ Guinn(1992), " A Clinical Screener for ompulsive Buying," Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 19, p. 459-469.

Faber, Ronald J., Thomas C. O’ Guinn, and Raymond Krych (1987). "Compulsive Consumption," in Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 14 ed. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Association of Consumer Research, UT, p. 132-135.

Hirschman, Elizabeth (1992). "The Consciousness of Addiction: Towards a general theory of Compulsive Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 19, p.155-179.

Hoch, Stephen J and George F. Loewenstein (1991). "Time-inconsistent Preferences and consumer self control," Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 17, p.492-507.

Holt, Douglas B. (1997). "Post structuralist Lifestyle analysis: Conceptualizing the social patterning of consumption in Post Modernity," Journal of Consumer Research., vol. 23, p.326-350.

Hyo-Jin, Kim; Randy O. Frost; Claire Morris; Cinnamon Bloss and Marta Murray-Close (1997). "Beliefs about the Nature and Value of Possessions among Compulsive Hoarders," paper presented at the 31st. Annual Convention of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Miami.

Leone, Gloria Rakita (1984). Case Histories of Deviant Behavior, Allyn & Bacon, Boston.

Marcos, Anastasios C., Stephen J. Bahr and Richard E. Johnson (1986). "Test of a Bonding/ Association theory of Adolescent drug use," Social Forces, vol. 65, p.135-161.

Marta, Murray_Close and Randy Frost (1997). "The Nature of Compulsive Buying and Acquisition," paper presented at the 31st. Annual Convention of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Miami Beach.

Mendelson, Jack and Nancy Mello (1986). The Addictive Personality, Chelsea NY.

Norton, K.R.W.; A.H. Crisp and A.V. Bhatt (1985). "Why do some Anorexics steal? Personal, Social and Illness factors," Journal of Psychiatric Research, vol. 19, p.385-390.

O’Guinn, Thomas C. and Ronald J. Faber (1989). "Compulsive Buying: A phenomenological exploration," Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 16, p. 147-157.

Rindfleisch, Aric, James E. Burroughs and Frank Denton (1997). "Family Structure, Materialism and Compulsive consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 23, p.312-325.

Rose, Randall L., Willaim O. Bearden and Jesse E. Teel (1992). "An Attributional Analysis of Resistance to Group Pressure regarding Illicit Drug and Alcohol consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 19, p. 1-13.

Valence, Gilles, Alain d’Astous and Louis Fortier (1988). "Compulsive Buying: Concept and measurement," Journal of Consumer Policy, vol. 11, p. 419-433.

World Drug Report (1997). World Drug Report, UNDCP.

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Authors

Pingali Venugopal, XLRI, India



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002



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