Socialization of family members
The socialization of family members is the central family function. The socialization responsibility of parents is constantly expanding. For example, parents are anxious to see their young children possessing computer skills. Parents help their young children to keep ahead. So, the daily schedules include pre-school classes, after school classes, play dates, weekend enrichment and sports programme. Such hectic schedules develop the skills of the children. Socialization of young children provides an opportunity to establish a solid foundation.
Consumer socialization is defined as the process in which children acquire all the necessary skills to function as consumer. For example, Japanese mothers want their children to develop independent skills at an early age. Japanese mothers maintain greater control over their children’s consumption.
How children develop consumption skill?
A variety of studies have focused on how children develop consumption skills. Children acquire their consumer behavior norms through the following:
1. Observation: Pre-adolescent children observe their parents who function as role models. They are the important source of cues for consumption learning. Adolescents and teenagers emulate their friends as models for consumption behavior. Younger children react positively to advertisements involving a spokesperson. Teens often like products for the simple reason that their parents disapprove of them.
2. Co-shopping: Co-shopping is a way of spending time with one’s children. Children influence family members to purchase for many products. Working mothers are more likely to undertake co-shopping with their children than non working mothers. This gives children an opportunity to acquire in-store shopping skills.
3. Promise or reward of material goods: Parents control the child’s behavior by promising rewards of material goods. Mother reward her kid with gift when the child behaves in pleasing manner. She may take back the gift when the child disobeys. Adolescents say that their parents frequently promise chocolate candy as a means of controlling their behavior.
Jean piaget, the Swiss psychologist has identified three stages in consumer socialization. They are
1. Pre-operational stage: Between the age of 3 and 7, children’s understanding and language skills develop. The consumption behavior of the children at this age is different that they depend mainly on parents as consumers. At the same time they are allowed certain choices for items such as chocolate, ice-cream, etc.
2. Concrete operational stage: Children in the age group of 8 to 11 are in concrete complex stage. During this stage, children acquire complex abilities and develop a taste. Children use persuasive techniques to get what they want. They also apply reasoning power.
3. Formal operational stage: Children in the age group of 12 to 15 pass through formal operational stage. They have better understanding of their surroundings and power of argument. They disagree with their family members in matters affecting them. They develop their own perception and values. In advanced countries, children at this stage work parttime and earn money. So, they make purchase decisions of their own. Many of them get gifts and financial assistance from their grandparents.
Role of parents in Consumer- behavior:
Carison and Grassbort have identified four types of parents in the context of consumer behavior.
1. Authoritarian parents: Authoritarian parents have a strict control over their children. They want their children to be free from external influences. Owing to changes in the social system and growing independence of children, authoritarian parents are declining in number.
2. Neglecting parents: Some parents neglect the behavior of their children. They do not pay attention as to how their children behave. They let their children free from their control. Generally, rich parents who do not have time to deal with their children belong to this category.
3. Democratic parents: Parents of this kind neither neglect their children nor impose strict control on them. The way they deal with their children is democratic. Though children are let free, they are expected to behave correctly. Parents have frank discussion with their children on matters affecting their choice.
4. Permissive parents: Permissive parents are those who impose minimum restrictions on their children. Permissive parents give due regard to the rights of their children. But they expect them to behave in a responsible manner.
Socialization is an ongoing process. It is not confined to childhood alone. In fact, socialization begins in early childhood and extends throughout. For example, a newly married couple establishing their own household, learns to live together in continuation of the socialization process. Likewise, the decision of the retired couple to move to some other place is also part of the ongoing socialization process. Surveys reveal that pet owners commonly treat their pets as full fledged family members.
Influence is passed from one generation to next which is known as inter generational influence. This concept exists in traditional families in the West and also in Indian culture. Certain product loyalties and brand preferences are transferred from one generation to another.
For example, brand preferences for products like coffee, peanut butter, clothes etc., are frequently transferred from one generation to another generation. Even college going consumer opines that
my mother still buys almost everything for me. Grown up people find it hard to break away from the things they have been using since their childhood. Consumers buy things they are accustomed to using. Children continue to be guided in the matter of banking, insurance, repair services etc.
Model of Consumer Socialization
The above image depicts a simple model of the socialization process. It focuses on the socialization of young children that can be extended to family members of all ages. Socialization is really a two-way street. Young persons are socialized and they influence those who are doing the socializing. Children of all ages influence the opinion and behavior of their parents. Even a child teaches his parents about internet. Because children are often more comfortable than their parents with digital and electronic media.