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Bringing consumer socialization into the 21st century: A grounded theory approach to consumer socialization in multiracial families

Elise J Harvey, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The variance in family formation processes in the U.S. has dramatically changed in the past four decades. While many families are still formed in what is considered the traditional manner, rates of multiracial families, single-parent families, same-sex parented families, and others are on the rise. Within these families, parents and children have experiences unique to their family type including distinct experiences within the consumer socialization process. It is of importance to marketing researchers and firms to better understand nontraditional families as they become a larger segment of the population with more buying power. Research questions included: 1) does the consumer socialization process in multiracial families provide evidence that the evolution of family structure in society necessitates an update to consumer socialization and its implicit assumptions; 2) how does the consumer socialization process occur among children and parents in multiracial families; 3) what roles do traditionally key socialization agents (parents, peers, and mass media) play in consumer socialization in multiracial families? Based on family depth interviews with 86 family members from 21 families, I collected stories and insights on consumer experiences in multiracial families to develop a grounded theory of multiracial consumer socialization that explains how parents and children are affected by their diverse multiracial family status as it relates to consumer socialization, how parents negotiate purchasing behavior and consumption rituals as they relate to race, how these negotiations result in strategies of families to handle multiple racial identities and customs, how parents rely on alternative sources for brand and product information and purchasing, the impact of race on children’s consumer socialization, and how consumer socialization agents distinctively affect multiracial families. The data reveal an important consumer socialization process undergone by the parents in multiracial families in order to handle their diverse status as consumers. Within the multiracial consumer socialization process of parents emerged three strategies utilized by parents (and indirectly, children) to merge racial practices: 1) blending, 2) piecemealing, and 3) accepting/resigning. The findings also reveal noteworthy influences of certain socialization agents on both parents and children as well as gender effects on children as a result of being in a multiracial family.

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Recommended Citation

Harvey, Elise J, "Bringing consumer socialization into the 21st century: A grounded theory approach to consumer socialization in multiracial families" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3739548.