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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Young Consumers, Volume 9, Issue 3
There have been a couple of interesting developments in the area of youth, children and consumption since my last editorial. Every two years a conference on children and consumption is held in Europe and this year we met in Trondheim to discuss issues and hear papers. Many of the presentations are from a tradition which embraces childhood studies and cultural and media theory and research so one gets a broad picture of children and childhood in a commercial world. I hope that some of the presentations will appear in future issues of Young Consumers and indeed one is here already – David Chitakunye’s presentation has been written up and appears in this issue.
In spring this year the UK government launched an initiative on children and commercial world by appointing a panel of experts to assess the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing. I am on this panel and the chair is David Buckingham who is a member of our Editorial Advisory Board. By the time you read this we shall be well into our review so keep up with our progress at www.dcsf.gov.uk/
Now let’s look at the papers for issue 3. Lisa McNeill and Sara Penman are interested in young people leaving home and how they cope with the fiscal autonomy they (in most cases) have encountered for the first time. “Going to university” is a transitional state between the financial dependency of childhood and the harsh reality of starting off in a job and is a useful site to investigate this process. Using a qualitative methodology they found a relaxed attitude to debt and consumer purchasing, with non-essential consumption seen as “deserved” and a “reward” for behaviour such as studying or working. The majority of spending decisions were made impulsively with social pressure driving consumption choices.
I have chosen two papers from France dealing with socialisation. Kafia Ayadi uses the concept of reverse socialisation, where skills, knowledge, tastes and preferences are transmitted from children to their parents, and applies it to healthy eating. She provides evidence that the school can function as an authoritative source for the promotion of a good diet and then the children establish these norms within the family because parents adopt them from their children. Using a qualitative methodology and thematic content analysis she illustrates this proposed route of influence from school to household with some quotes from her interviews with families in France.
Coralie Damay explores an area of socialisation that is less often researched and published than consumer socialisation. Her research is the area of economic psychology and involves children’s understanding of aspects of money and as such can be seen as economic socialisation or how children develop an understanding of the workings of the economy. What does “expensive” and “price” mean to French children? This sort of research is invaluable for practitioner and academic alike as we still know little about how children perceive the value of branded goods and services for example.
Cross-cultural research using quantitative methods characterises the next two papers. Lars Andersen and his colleagues have conducted a survey on tweens’ money, consumption and responses to advertising in Denmark and Hong Kong. Although the survey methodology gives us a large sample of children in both countries and hence has “breadth” we need future qualitative research to give us depth. However there are some vital insights from these results, which show complex differences in the perception and reactions to advertising. The results seem to support that tween consumption and responses to advertising are motivated differently in cultures of individualism (Denmark) and collectivism (Hong Kong), and consequently that the tween consumer segment might not be as globally homogenous as it is claimed.
La Ferle and Chan look at adolescents in Singapore and the extent to which they endorse materialistic values. The role of peers and also media celebrities as sources of social influence are examined as well as advertising viewing and responses to marketing promotions. They found that imitation of media celebrities and perceived peer influence were positive predictors of materialistic consumption values while marketing communication factors were not significant predictors.
Finally we have a paper from David Chitakunye and Pauline Maclaran which is based on a more ethnographic and interpretive approach and is to be welcomed for that. Eating is an anthropologist’s dream – a social activity full of ritual and rules which are frequently broken by young people for various social reasons. David and Pauline take us through how children eat in everyday life and I’m sure you’ll enjoy their observant and insightful comments. Essential reading for those of us involved in the food consumption literature.
Dr Brian Young