Special Session Summary Recreating the Past For the Present and Future: Transgenerational Reproduction and Transfer of Consumption Meanings


Linda L. Price (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Recreating the Past For the Present and Future: Transgenerational Reproduction and Transfer of Consumption Meanings", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 341.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 341



Linda L. Price, University of South Florida


Significant research has concerned itself with consumer socialization. However, in general this research emphasizes the immediate transfer of consumer attitudes and skills to children and adolescents, (as well as from adolescents to parents). In addition, some important and limited research has addressed the transfer of brand meanings between generations. By contrast with (but complementary to) these research streams, this session focused on patterns of transgenerational transfer of consumption meanings as mediated through possessions and/or as encompassed in longer temporal frames. The cultural reproduction of consumption meanings through exchanges within a kinship system has received relatively limited attention, with more attention given to market mediated cultural transfer of meanings and reproduction of consumption patterns within social collectivities organized around taste, lifestyle, social class, ethnicity or other demographic descriptors.


The collaboration represented in this session provided theoretically, methodologically, and metaphorically eclectic perspectives for conceptualizing consumption meaning transfers within kinship systems. Tine Vinge Frantois examined the transfer of valued possessions from older consumers to their children and grandchildren. Data were collected in Denmark and included photographs of cherished objects and depth interviews with both givers and actual/potential receivers. The analysis of the data was carried out within a framework inspired by semiotics and especially by the Graimassian square. Her findings emphasize different modes for receiving of inherited objects between the giving generation and the receiving generation that precipitate friction, conflict and ambiguity in communications with the transfer of cherished objects between generations. Carolyn Folkman Curasi also explored the transfer of valued possessions from older consumers to their immediate kin. Her data were collected in the Southeastern United States, but again, included photographs and depth interviews of multiple generations wihin family units. By contrast with Tine’s work, Carolyn’s theoretical perspective emphasized an anthropological framing, especially inspired by the work of Annette Weiner on inalienable possessions. She described how possessions come to be viewed as inalienable, that is, held out from market exchanges within the close confines of a kinship system. Her findings stress different transfer strategies depending on the "patina" status of the cherished objects. The presentation by Deborah Heisley and Brian Jorgensen used a theater/role performance metaphor as inspired by Goffman to illustrate the different roles played out in decisions about how to allocate and transfer wealth to descendents. Data were collected in the Western United States and included depth interviews with older consumers, receivers and attorneys charged with transferring accumulated wealth. A clear theme in their findings is how the reproduction of kinship is legitimated in each generation through the transmission of accumulated wealth. Themes of responsibility, fairness and control emerge in data. Finally, Elizabeth Moore-Shay used personal experience narratives to examine how young adults account for the role of their parents and background in their own broad consumption orientations. Her data, collected from young adults in the Midwestern United States, are framed by traditional theories of socialization which emphasize that childhood learning is so prolonged, intense and important that the values and beliefs formed in the family context persist well into adulthood. Her findings suggest that the acceptance or rejection of parental consumption orientation and values rest largely on the character and tenor of the home environment, irrespective of the objective economic circumstances within the household.


To synthesize the presentations of research and highlight areas for future research, James Gentry commented on themes common across transfer processes and stressed the need for increased concern for reverse transfers with more emphasis on issues such as parental learning. While the transfer processes varied depending on whether rules for life, symbolic meaning, or liquid assets were being transferred, they combine to form the legacy inherited from the previous generation.



Linda L. Price, University of South Florida


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25 | 1998

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