This paper aims to offer an interrogation for the purposes of theoretical clarity, precision and validity. Family communication patterns (FCPs) about consumption is a commonly used measure in consumer socialisation. However, it has not been properly assessed for validity in marketing since it was developed in the 1970s. Previously developed and commonly used scales were used to examine communication styles and communication quality to test whether these older measures were still valid and applicable to the modern consumer context.
Critique of extant measures suggested the need for a more precise and contemporary conceptualisation of family communication about consumption. A new conceptualisation was then empirically tested using a psychometric theory approach to scale development. By using a dyadic design, family communication between parents and young adult children in 180 families was examined.
The early concepts are now outdated and do not readily translate into current language and family interaction styles. The terms “socio-” and “concept-orientation” no longer convey the essence of family communication. Contemporary families perceive “socio-oriented” communication as controlling and negative, while “concept-orientation” is seen as encouraging and positive. Thus, the dimensions are more purposefully labelled as encouraging and controlling family communication. A new typology of family communication styles (FCSs) was developed.
A new, empirically tested, four-quadrant matrix of FCSs based on consumer socialisation theories is put forward. This includes four distinct communication styles within families, namely permissive (low encouraging and low controlling), prohibitive (low encouraging and high controlling), pluralistic (high encouraging and low controlling) and protective (high encouraging and high controlling) FCSs.
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