Race and Sex Differences of Children in Satisfaction and Other Factors Associated With Video Games

ABSTRACT - Previous studies in satisfaction/dissatisfaction have focused upon examining differences in race and sex for adult consumers. The purpose of this paper was to examine whether such differences exist when the satisfaction of children and related determinants are considered in the context of video games. Results are generally supportive of hypotheses formulated but several incongruencies with previous research were noted. Implications for the study of consumer satisfaction and of children are given.


Kathi A. Jordan and James H. Leigh (1984) ,"Race and Sex Differences of Children in Satisfaction and Other Factors Associated With Video Games", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11, eds. Thomas C. Kinnear, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 94-99.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11, 1984      Pages 94-99


Kathi A. Jordan, Texas A&M University

James H. Leigh, Texas A&M University


Previous studies in satisfaction/dissatisfaction have focused upon examining differences in race and sex for adult consumers. The purpose of this paper was to examine whether such differences exist when the satisfaction of children and related determinants are considered in the context of video games. Results are generally supportive of hypotheses formulated but several incongruencies with previous research were noted. Implications for the study of consumer satisfaction and of children are given.


Satisfaction/dissatisfaction (S/DS) studies that have examined the relationship between satisfaction and various demographic variables have often reported mixed results (e.g., Gronhaug 1976; Mason and Himes 1973, Pickle and Bruce 1972; Warland, Hermann and Willits 1975). For example, Pickle and Bruce (1972) analyzed consume households' S/DS with a variety of products and found that the younger the consumer is, the higher the degree of dissatisfaction exhibited; however, the race of the consumer did not significantly affect the consumer's perceived S/DS. Ash (1978), on the other hand, reports finding a negative relationship between a consumer's age and satisfaction.

In part due to the mixed findings of these early studies, Day and Bodur (1977) recommend that researchers examine the association between satisfaction and demographic factors in aggregated fashion instead of the cannon practice of first classifying people as complainers and noncomplainers and then examining the demographic composition of each group. Swan and Carroll (1979) echo a similar concern and urge researchers to conceptualize and examine more comprehensively the relationship between demographic and satisfaction factors.

While the demographic characteristics of race and sex are often reported by researchers, only the study by Duhaime and Ash (1979) was located which involved an intensive investigation of these factors in the context of S/DS and complaining behavior. The objective of this paper is to report results of an investigation of the effects of sex and race on factors associated with satisfaction. The context of the research involves an area which has been largely neglected howeverCconsumer S/DS of children.

The literature on children's S/DS will first be reviewed, followed by a discussion of the manner in which the study was operationalized, justification for the measures used, and specification of the hypotheses tested. Finally, the results will be presented and important findings discussed.


In the area of children's S/DS, only one published study was located which examined the domain of consumer S/DS of children. Bjorklund and Bjorklund (1979) focused x groups of toddlers (aged 12, 16, and 20 months) and examined their satisfaction with toys under experimental manipulations involving the number and types of toys available. Behavioral measures were used as proxies to find how satisfaction differed by experimental treatment. Results indicated that differences do exist in satisfaction as measured by behavioral proxies. Although Bjorklund and Bjorklund did not hypothesize relationships of sex and race with satisfaction, they did find a significant interaction between a child's sex, toy quantity, and toy category, as well as a significant interaction between the child's age, sex and toy quantity.

While few studies have examined the effects of children's sex and race on satisfaction, these two demographic variables have been examined with respect to perceptions of television commercials. For example, Donohue, Meyer, and Henke (1978) examined differences between black and white children's perceptions of television commercials and found that race was the strongest predictor of all levels of understanding among children, with whites exhibiting greater understanding than blacks. The sex of the child did not, however, significantly affect understanding levels. Barry and Gunst (1982) took a simiLar approach in examining differences in children' s preferences for two themes of a snack bar commercial. They found that neither age, sex nor race affected preferences; however, a significant relationship between race and recall was found which mirrored the findings of Donohue, Meyer and Henke (1978). Barry and Gunst also found differences in race, but not sex, for a child's intended behavior to buy and eat the snack presented in the commercials. The black children indicated a greater willingness to buy and eat the snack bar than did white children.

In addition to examining differences between ages, Moschis and Moore (1979) found that by the time adolescence is reached, each sex has developed clear sex-role perceptions of responsibility for decision making in activities viewed as either traditionally male or female decision areas. Thus, there is also a need to explore whether these differences by sex occur prior to adolescence.


The population defined for study was - limited to children between the ages of seven and twelve. Children below the age of seven were excluded fran the study on account of their likely information processing deficiencies noted by Roedder (1981); the desire was to avoid strict use of behavioral measures as proxies for direct verbal indicators of satisfaction. By excluding young children, the contaminating influences due to language and ability differences to deal with abstract concepts, such as satisfaction, which were noted by Chestnut (1979), should not be operative. The paper by Leigh and Jordan (in press) in this volume provides a partial justification for the suitability of the study population.

Video games were selected as the product/service for study. The rationale for this decision includes: (1) their widespread popularity among children; (2) the fact that they provided immediate gratification to the participant which is felt by some to represent a primary purchase motive of children (Hawkins, Coney and Best 1980; McNeal 1982); and (3) their representing a product/service category for which children are likely to make purchase choices on their own. Based on conversations with arcade owners and examination of sales records for the six months preceding administration of the study, three highly popular video games (Donkey Kong," "Pac-Man" and "Defender") and three unpopular video games ("Space Fury," "Space Invaders," and "Vanguard") were selected as the brands for study. The underlying assumption of the selection was that the popular video games would be satisfying and the unpopular games dissatisfying.

The original plan was to sample from within groups of children who had just finished playing a respective popular or unpopular game; however, it was determined during pretest of the questionnaire at a local arcade that only two of the twenty children interviewed had previously played any of the three unpopular games. For this reason, the decision was made to interview only those children who had just completed playing one of the three popular games.

After receiving a child's consent to be asked several questions about the game they had just played and confirming they were between ages seven and twelve, six game specific questions were asked. They were then shown Polaroid pictures of the six video games and asked to choose the one which they thought was the most fun. The one chosen was removed and the process was repeated until only one was left. me children were then asked the same set of game-specific questions about the game which remained. Eight questions pertaining to video games in general were asked and were followed by demographic questions.

The study was conducted at two arcades in Bryan/College Station, Texas; one is located in a strip shopping center and the other in an enclosed mall. The interview schedule, was divided equally between the arcades and was constructed to correspond to days and tines when children were likely to be present, including "double-token day" at one arcade and a family night at the theater in the enclosed mall which draws children before and after the movie to that arcade.

Operationalization of Measures Used and Hypotheses Tested

The measures used in the study and for the analyses reported here represent seven constructs: 1) satisfaction-related construct for the popular video game the child had just finished playing and one for the game ranked as least fun; (2) two constructs composed of game-specific predictors for the two games, and (3) three general constructs - general locations of experience with video games, financial constraints/facilitators on video game purchases, and parental constraints/facilitators. The respective indicators of each construct will be explained and justified and specific hypotheses developed.

Game Specific Satisfaction Indicators. Prior studies have focused on measuring satisfaction and those indicators specifically associated with that measure. Expectations have been shown to be closely related to a measure of satisfaction (Anderson 1973, Cardoza 1965, Latour and Peat 1980, Swan and Combs 1976). Expectations of fun with the respective video games were both measured by asking the child whether he or she had more fun than expected, less fun, or about the same as expected (+1, -1, or 0, respectively). A modified version of Westbrook's (1980) D-T scale, which is a seven point continuum ranging from delighted to terrible and with a neutral category and a "lack of consideration" one as additional response options, was used as the measure of the degree of satisfaction. The complete D- r scale was found by Westbrook (1980) to be reasonably reliable among adult consumers. In order to prevent Confusion of the children and to have them take a stand, the modified scale was limited to the seven-paint continuum. The response options were printed on an oversized card and read aloud to the child. During the pretest and main study, the children appeared to have no problem in distinguishing between the choices and making a decision. The remaining satisfaction indicator corresponds to the utility approach described by Hunt (1977); children w re asked their likelihood of playing the respective game in the future, using a four point, forced choice scale which ranged from "very likely" (+2) to "very unlikely" (-2).

As established earlier for adult consumers, Duhaime and Ash (1979) reported finding men less satisfied than women for products purchased primarily by men. Wells (1975) also found a significant difference between male and female children in their cartoon program preferences. However, Barry and Gunst (1982) in their examination of children's preferences for two themes of a snack bar commercial found sex did not significantly affect preferences. Due to our sample consisting of children, and the recency of the finding of Barry and Gunst, we hypothesize that:

H1 (sex): No significant differences will exist between males and females for the game-specific indicators of satisfaction for the game played and the least fun Race.

Results in examIning differences in S/DS with respect to race appear to be similarly mixed as those involving sex. With adult consumers, Pickle and Bruce (1972) found that race did not significantly affect a person's S/DS. Even for children the results are comparable; Barry and Gunst (1982) found no differences between races in preferences for two themes of a snack bar commercial. They did find, however, that black children expressed a wore positive intention to purchase the snack than did the white children. Barry and Hansen (1973) also found a similar difference between black and white children in preferences for televised cereal commercials, but they attributed this difference to the presence of a black spokesperson in one of the commercials. On the basis of these findings.

H1 (race): No significant differences will exist between races for the game specific indicators of satisfaction for the game played and the least fun game.

Game-Specific Predictors of Satisfaction. Three measures were developed for assessing how the child learned about the respective game played and the game ranked as least fun. Direct prior experience referred to the approximate number of times the particular game had been played, which was coded for analysis either 0, 1, or 2 (if more than one previous play). The influence of reported prior experience of peers was assessed by asking the child if their friends had ever played the particular game ("Yes"=1, "No" and "Don't Know"=0). Evaluation by peers concerned whether or not their friends thought the game was fun to play or not ("Not Fun"=1, "Don't Know" and "Not Applicable"=0 and "Fun to Play"=+1).

Video games are viewed as primarily a male purchase item for this study since males constituted 70% of those interviewed. Since they are the primary purchasers, we assumed that males will report greater prior experience than females. Moschis and Churchill (1979) in an analysis of adolescent consumers found males tended to exhibit stronger social motivations for consuming products than did females. Since video games are usually consumed in the presence of a child's peers (especially in an arcade), these social motivations should be operative. Moschis and Moore (1979) found the more socially motivated the purchase, the greater is the tendency for a child to use peer preferences in evaluating the product. Therefore, the second hypothesis formulated is:

H2 (sex): Males will report (a) greater prior experience, (b) a greater likelihood of prior experience by peers and (c) a greater likelihood of a positive evaluation by peers than females for the game played and the least fun game.

Barry and Gunst (1982) found that neither sex nor race affected preferences for two themes of a snack bar commercial (sweet and chocolate or nutritious). Since the product Barry and Gunst tested was a food item, no social motivations were likely present in reporting preferences. Even though we expect sex differences in the nature and incidence of peer evaluations, and direct experience for the male-dominant video games, no significant race differences are expected for the game-specific predictors:

H2 (race): and significant differences will exist between races for the game-specific predictors of satisfaction for the game played and the game ranked as least fun.

General Factors. Cardoza (1965) argued that consumer satisfaction may depend upon the circumstances and experiences associated with acquiring the product, in addition to the product itself. Therefore, three categories of general factors were developed: (1) general experience with video games, (2) parental constraints/facilitators on video games purchases, and (3) financial constraints/facilitators on video games purchases. General experience with video games consists of asking the child if they played video games at home and/or at a store near their home ("Yes"=1, "No"=0). The constraints/facilitators were divided into financial and parental influences. The child reported how much spending money he received each week, and how much of that spending money he spent on video games. The interviewer then ranked the appropriate category for the amount of money received [(1) Less than $1, (2) $1 to $2.99, (3) $3 to $4.99, (4) $5 to $9.99, and (5) $10 or more] and converted the amount spent on video games to a percent of weekly spending money. Parental influences were assessed by asking the child if one or both of the parents played video games ("Neither play"=0, "One plays"=1, and "Both play"=2). The child was also asked if the parents liked or disliked the child to play video games ("Dislike"=1, "Don't Know" or "Dislike but let me"=0, and "Like"=+1). Since the children were reporting their perception of their parents' attitude, it should be noted that the parents' answer to this question would likely differ from that of the child.

Based on the previous findings, that males are the primary purchasers of video games, we assume that males will be more likely to also play video games at home and at a nearby store than females. Marshall (1963) investigated reports by parents and children about the use of money, and from both reports, it was found that males' (age 10-12) past year's wages were significantly higher than females. Moschis and Churchill (1979) also found that males had greater materialistic values than females. Therefore, we assume that males will report a greater weekly income than females and will spent a greater percent of that income on video games than females. With respect to parental constraints/ facilitators, after reviewing the literature Ward (1974) found that parent's influences on the consumer socialization process rarely differed by sex of the child, whether the parent was teaching consumer skills though instruction or through examples. Thus we propose that no significant difference will exist between sexes for the parental constraints/facilitators.

H3 (sex): Males will be (a) more likely to play video games at home and/or a nearby store than females; (b) males will receive and allocate a greater percent of weekly spending money on video games females; and (c) no significant differences will exist between males and females for the parental constraints/facilitators.

Moschis and Moore (1979) reported that socioeconomic background apparently accounts for differences in consumer skills, since children of a higher socioeconomic background would have a greater chance for consumption. Although socioeconomic background of the child was not measured, Assael (1981 ) discusses the differences in income between different races. He noted that the hispanic market has a significantly lower than average income, and that average income for blacks is approximately one third less that of whites. Due to these differences in income, we assume that minority children have less of an opportunity for consumption than white children.

Since home video games are usually a big-ticket discretionary item for a household, minority children should have less experience with video games at home than would white children due to the lower household income. The limited income of minorities is also thought to reduce the likelihood of the child playing games at a store, as well as reducing the child's weekly spending money. Assael (1981) suggests that blacks are more likely to spend their money on socially visible items. Therefore, we propose that minorities will allocate a larger portion of their available spending money to video games than will whites. With respect to parental constraints/facilitators, Barry and Sheikh (1975) report an unpublished study by Sheikh, Moleski and Prasad (1975) in which white children perceived their parents as more yielding to purchase requests than did black children. However, in the present study, we did not examine whether parents yielded to video purchase requests; rather, we asked whether the parents liked or disliked the child playing video games. and if one or both parents played. The mere fact that children were studied at an arcade indicates a commonality in parental yielding. Thus, no significant differences are proposed.

In summary, our last hypothesis is

H3 (race): Whites will report (a) wore experience with video games at home and a nearby store, and (b) more weekly spending money than minorities, but minorities will allocate proportionately more to video games than whites. (c) Nb significant differences will exist between the races in terms of parental constraints and facilitators.


Two hundred and five children were approached for questioning in the two video arcades. One hundred ninety-three agreed to respond to the questionnaire. Resulting in a response rate of 94.2 percent.

The sample of children consisted of 73 percent males and 27 percent females. The races questioned included blacks, hispanics and whites. The blacks composed only 3 percent of the sample, with 23 percent hispanic, and the remaining 74 percent white. Due to the small percent of blacks in the sample, univariate ANOVAs were performed on the twenty-one items to determine if the groups were homogeneous and could be aggregated. Due to the lack of substantive differences, the two groups were combined and will be referred to as minorities.

Approximately seventy percent of the children were 10 to 12 years old, were the remaining 30 percent between 7 and 9 years old. Sixty percent of the children reported receiving $5 or more spending money. Twenty-five percent of the children reported spending 50 percent of their weekly spending money on video games, while thirty-six percent reported spending all of their money on video games. One must recognize that since the study was conducted in an arcade, the children who participated are likely to be video games enthusiasts.

Given that the study was conducted at two local arcades which probably differ somewhat in terms of clientele, differences between arcades were assessed for the measures defined for study. The ANOVA results for these analyses are given in Table 1. The arcades were found to differ in terms of the average response to the D-T measure of satisfaction for the game which was played. me respondents in the mal 1 reported a higher level of satisfaction than those in the strip center arcade; the basis for this finding is unclear. All of the satisfaction predictors for the game played also exhibited differences between the two arcades. The mall arcade respondent had greater prior experience, a report of greater prior experience by peers, and a more positive evaluation by peers of the current game played than did the respondent in the strip center arcade. Perhaps, the arcade differences are spuriously due to differences between the clientele in terms of their experiences and involvement. For the least fun gale, neither the satisfaction construct nor satisfaction predictors exhibited significant differences between respondents in the two arcades.



Of the general factors, only the amount of weekly spending money and race differed by arcade. The mall arcade's respondents reported a greater amount of spending money received and a greater proportion of Minorities than the strip center arcade.


On account of the racial differences found between the arcades, the hypotheses were tested using both ANOVA and ANCOVA (controlling for the arcade effect). In all cases where arcade was used as a covariate, the significant level of the relationships did not change. For this reason, only the ANOVA results are given and discussed (see Table 2).



Game-Specific Satisfaction Indicators

As hypothesized, no significant differences were found between males and females for the game-specific satisfaction indicators for the game played and for the game ranked as least fun. Although we hypothesized that no significant differences would be found between races for both sets of satisfaction indicators, two marginally-significant differences were found for the least fun game. Minorities reported a greater degree of satisfaction, as measured by the modified D-T scale, and a greater likelihood of future play for the least fun game than did whites. Although the remaining measure of satisfaction for the least fun game was not significant, the direction of the mean differences was similar. Perhaps minorities have a tendency to be less negative about a non-preferred object, although there is no evidence in the literature to support or refute this possibility. Moreover, the basis for such a tendency could be due to minorities having responded in a socially desirable manner or to true differences in preferences. The issue merits further study.

Game Specific Predictors of Satisfaction

No significant differences on the basis of sex were found for any of these predictor measures for the game played. For the game ranked as the least fun, the hypotheses that males would report greater direct prior experience and prior experience of peers were both strongly supported. The hypothesis that males would report less positive evaluations by peers about the least fun gaze was not supported, although the mean difference was in the predicted direction. These results tend to provide a measure of substantiation for males having a broader range of experience with video games than females.

Although it was hypothesized that no significant differences would exist between the races for the game-specific predictor of satisfaction for the game played and the least fun game, cue exception did occur. Minorities reported a more positive evaluation by peers for the least fun game than did whites. As reported earlier, minorities reported greater satisfaction and likelihood of future play for the least fun game. Although not tested, perhaps the reported level of satisfaction WaS a function of the communication of a more positive evaluation by the minorities' peers.

General Factors

The hypotheses that greater percentages of males relative to females and of whites relative to minorities would report they play video games at home and/or at a nearby store were generally not supported. F differences were found on the basis of sex or race for the measure regarding play of game at a nearby store. For the measure of play of video games at home, an interaction of sex by race was observed, which limits the extent to which conclusions about the main effects can be made. The proportions of white males reporting play of video games at home was much larger than that of minority males (.62 versus .24), while females did not differ by race (.37 versus .36). Because the sample was car posed primarily of white male children (i.e., 58 percent of the total), the mean differences for both sex and race were in the predicted direction.

In examining the hypotheses for the financial constraints/ facilitators, it was proposed that males would receive and allocate a greater proportion of their spending money to video games than females. tb differences were found for the-amount of weekly spending money; but, as predicted, males did report a greater percentage of their spending money being allocated to video game purchases. Although we hypothesized that whites would receive more weekly spending money whereas minorities would allocate more to video games, no significant differences existed between whites and minorities on these measures.

With respect to parental constraints/facilitators we hypothesized that there would be no significant differences on the basis of sex or race. Males, however, were found to report a greater degree of dislike fran their parents of their playing video games than did females. Since males allocated more of their spending money to video games, this possibly presented their parents an opportunity for verbal disapproval that females were less likely to encounter, however, this finding could be indicative of a social desirability bias. As proposed, no significant differences were found between whites and minorities for parental constraints/facilitators.


The major purpose of this study was to examine the differences in sex and race that exist for satisfaction indicators, satisfaction predictors and general factors associated with video game purchases of children. Due to the locations in which the study was preformed, local video arcades, the children in the sample are likely to be video game enthusiasts, and one cannot generalize too far beyond the scope of this study. However, several findings do support previous studies which examined effects of children's race and sex on the preferences.

Although a child's sex did not affect the evaluation of satisfaction for either game, there was sane evidence of other differences between males and females. For the least fun game, males were found to report greater prior experience and greater peer experience than females. Males also reported allocating more of their spending money to video games, and reported a greater dislike from parents for their playing video games than did females. As postulated earlier, males constitute the major purchasers of video games. Future studies need to examine the differences that occur between males and females when the product is purchased mostly by either females or males, when purchased exclusively by one sex or the other, and ken the product is one purchased by both sexes. Barry and Gunst (1982) used a food product that would perhaps be purchased equally by both sexes and did not find any significant differences in preferences. Given their findings and ours, it may well be that satisfaction and preferences do not differ markedly across males and females, except where the product is suited exclusively for one gender or where product choices are made fran a set which includes both male- and female-dominant products.

Although Barry and Gunst (1982) reported finding no significant race differences in preference for one theme over another for the television commercial, but did report differences in intended consumption behavior, the present study provides support for Barry and Gunst's (1982) mixed findings. No significant differences were found between races in satisfaction for the game played, it minorities reported more positive satisfaction and a greater likelihood of future play than did whites for the game ranked as least fun. A possible explanation of this difference may lie in one of the limitations of this study. Although care was taken to select an assortment of "fun" and "not fun" video gales, the game remaining in the ranking task fun may not have actually been the least fun game in terms of the child's product set. Future studies are needed to examine whether differences in satisfaction predictors exist between races in cases where the products are truly dissatisfying.

The only significant difference which existed between races for the general factor associated with video games was in the report of playing video games at home. As predicted, whites more frequently reported playing video games at home than did minorities. While the basis for the effect could be due to income differences between aces (Assael 1981), other possible explanations, such as race differences in parental yielding or in biases (due to use of a white interviewer), serve to limit the extent of the generalization which is warranted and point to important areas for additional research.

The results of this study are important for research on consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction. Whereas the predictors of satisfaction for the game played were not found to differ on the basis of either sex or race, experience differences between males and females for the game ranked as least fun point to the possible important role that considerations of the range of product/brand options may have for delineating a study population al the basis of involvement with the product category. Social judgment theory (Sherif and Hovland 1964) would be an appropriate overriding conceptual model toward this end in the sense that a person who is highly involved would likely have had a range of experiences with a product category, which would, in turn, be reflected by a large difference in satisfaction, extent of behavior, and intentions for the respective end points of the product continuum. Lesser involved consumers should, on the basis of the theory, be more accepting of the product options and would, therefore, find product extremes as less different in terms of satisfaction provision, which would in turn impact behavior and intentions.

Although this study provided mixed support for results found in previous studies of satisfaction and of preferences of children, a gap in the S/DS literature has been filled by examining whether consumer satisfaction of children differs by sex and race.


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Kathi A. Jordan, Texas A&M University
James H. Leigh, Texas A&M University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11 | 1984

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