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The evolving family assemblage: how senior families “do” family

Aimee Dinnin Huff (Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA)
June Cotte (Ivey Business School, Western University, London, Canada)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




A growing stream of consumer research has examined the intersection of family dynamics, consumption practices and the marketplace. The purpose of this paper is to make sense of the complex nature of family for senior families (adult children and their elderly parents) who employ the use of elder care services and facilities.


This research analyses data gathered from in-depth interviews with adult siblings and their elderly parents through the lens of assemblage theory.


This paper advances a conceptulisation of the family as an evolving assemblage of components, including individual members; material possessions and home(s); shared values, goals, memories and practices; prominent familial attributes of love and care; and marketplace resources. Three features of the assemblage come to the fore in senior families: the fluid meaning of independence for the elderly parent, the evolution of shared family practices and the trajectory of the assemblage that is a function of its history and future.


This research focuses on a stage of family life that has been under-theorised; applies assemblage theory to the family collective, demonstrating that a family can be conceptualised as an ever-evolving assemblage of human and non-human components, and this is a useful lens for understanding how senior families “do” family; and argues for a broader notion of family – one that is not household-centric or focused on families with young children, that encompasses members and materiality and that foregrounds the dynamic, evolving nature of family life.



This research was funded, in part, by a grant to the second author by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This paper is based on the dissertation of the first author, supervised by the second author. The authors are most grateful to Russ Belk and Michelle Barnhart for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript.


Huff, A.D. and Cotte, J. (2016), "The evolving family assemblage: how senior families “do” family", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 50 No. 5/6, pp. 892-915.



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