Children's influence on consumption-related decisions in single-mother families: A review and research agenda

Philosophical Explorations (forthcoming)
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Although social scientists have identified diverse behavioral patterns among children from dissimilarly structured families, marketing scholars have progressed little in relating family structure to consumption-related decisions. In particular, the roles played by members of single-mother families—which may include live-in grandparents, mother’s unmarried partner, and step-father with or without step-sibling(s)—may affect children’s influence on consumption-related decisions. For example, to offset a parental authority dynamic introduced by a new stepfather, the work-related constraints imposed on a breadwinning mother, or the imposition of adult-level household responsibilities on children, single-mother families may attend more to their children’s product preferences. Without a profile that includes socio-economic, behavioral, and psychological aspects, efficient and socially responsible marketing to single-mother households is compromised. Relative to dual-parent families, single-mother families tend to have fewer resources and less buying power, children who consume more materialistic and compulsively, and children who more strongly influence decision making for both own-use and family-use products. Timely research would ensure that these and other tendencies now differentiate single-mother from dual-parent families in ways that marketers should address. Hence, our threefold goal is (1) to consolidate and highlight gaps in existing theory applied to studying children’s influence on consumption-related decision making in single-mother families, and (2) to propose a hybrid framework that merges two theories conducive to such research, and (3) to identify promising research propositions for future research.

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