The influencing effect of socialization agents on male children’s sportswear choice decisions: a study of 8-11 year old male reactions to mother versus peers.
Mackie, Grace E.
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Academics, educationalists and parents have all expressed increasing concern about targeting and marketing towards children, particularly to those within the age group of eight to thirteen, and identified as tweenagers. Through an analysis of the literature it is established that inconsistencies exist on the influence of socialization agents on the reactions of young male consumers. Review of the literature also identifies that much is understood about female tweenagers but little is yet known about male tweenagers. The interpretive approach adopted explores the associations and reactions of male tweenagers to agents of consumer socialization, with a focus on mother versus peers. The study demonstrates how these agents affect the decisions of eight to eleven year old males, in the final years of the Scottish primary school system, within the sportswear sector. A two-stage research design combined a group based data procedure, supported by a projective comic strip scenario. Themes were identified from the analysis of friendship group discussions supported by the identification of phenomena emerging from projective data. An interpretivist epistemology supported an iterative, grounded process of data analysis, leading to the development of frameworks of consumer behaviour for male tweenagers within the product sector. The findings offer a different understanding from studies on female tweenagers in relation to parental involvement and influence, pester power and peer pressure. Four assertions emerged from the findings. Firstly, mum is identified as the gateway to brand information and in a positive attachment agent, evidenced through the exertion of positive reactions towards ‘mum’. Pester power was not in evidence, and instead supports the views on joint action between parent and child when participating in the consumer socialization game. Peer pressure is low, as these children demonstrate negative responses to peer socialization agents. And more importantly, these boys are identified as being different to girls in their socialization relationships. This thesis focuses on the voice of males tweenagers and reveals them to be embedded within social networks where they do not yet feel ‘compelled’ to follow the directives of peers when making sportswear choices. The findings contribute to the literature by proposing that marketers and consumer researchers need to review the assumptions that what is known about children, and in particular girl tweenagers, can be transferred to male tweenagers. This exploratory study questions the usefulness of these assumptions as an appropriate basis for practitioner and researcher decisions, and underlines the need to study males tweenagers as a separate consumer social group.