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children's Purchase Influence Attempts and

Parental Yielding
s c o n WARD and DANIEL B. WACKMAN*
Mass communication research has traditionally been
concerned with relatively immediate consequences of
mass media use, such as attitude change. Considerably
less attention has been devoted to second-order conse-
quences of mass communication exposure, such as inter-
personal communication.
This research examined such second-order conse-
quences, focusing on the impact of television advertis-
ing on mother-child interaction. Specifically, we studied
children's attempts to influence mothers' purchases of
various products and mothers' yielding to these at-
tempts.
Some previous research has examined relationships
between mass media use, parent-child interaction, and
subsequent effects. For example, adolescents' mass
media use has been related to parent-child interaction
and political socialization processes [2, 6]. Halloran
and his associates examined exposure to television and
intrafamily communication among samples of delin-
quent and nondelinquent British adolescents [5].
Little empirical evidence has been found on the ex-
tent of television advertising's influence on intrafamily
interaction and behavior. For example, while much
commercial research attempts to relate mass media
exposure to aspects of consumer behavior, little effort
has been devoted to explicit examination of parent-
child interaction intervening between media exposure
and behavior [3]. Research on consumers' family de-
cision making usually focuses on husband-wife inter-
action and is not concerned with the influence of chil-
dren [4].
Some qualitative data indicate that mothers feel
television commercials influence their children [8],
citing the apparent formation of desires for various
* Scott Ward is Assistant Professor of Business Administration,
Harvard University, and Research Associate at The Marketing
Science Institute; Daniel B. Wackman is Director, Research Di-
vision, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Uni-
versity of Minnesota. This research was supported, in part, by a
grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The assistance
of Greg Reale, David Levinson, and Wing-Hing Tsang is gratefully
acknowledged.
products. Parents resent the encouragement of overt
attempts to influence their purchases, although many
mothers are said to accept television advertising as a
necessary evil. Such qualitative research, of course, does
not explicitly link media exposure to specific family
processes.
Berey and Pollay examined such processes in
mothers' purchases of children's breakfast cereals [1].
While not concerned with mass media influences, the
investigators found highly child-centered mothers pur-
chased their children's favorite cereals less frequently
than less child-centered mothers. The child's assertive-
ness was not correlated with purchase perhaps because
the assertiveness measure was based on teachers' rat-
ings, which are probably based more on peer interaction
than parent-child interaction.
The present study examined the influence of three
variables on children's purchase influence attempts and
parental yielding: demographics, parent-child inter-
action, and mothers' mass communication behavior.
METHODOLOGY
Self-administered questionnaires were sent to 132
mothers of 5- to 12-year-old children in the Boston
metropolitan area. The mothers had been recruited from
area service clubs for participation in another study.
While attempts were made to sample different socio-
economic areas of Boston, the sample was skewed to-
ward the upper and upper-middle classes.
The questionnaire took about one hour to complete;
women were paid a small amount for their participa-
tion. Some items asked the women to report on the
behavior of one of their children, identified on the
questionnaire. Completed questionnaires were received
from 109 mothers (83%). Various scales were recoded
by summing items; items included in the scales and
reliability estimates for the scales are presented in the
Appendix.
Two kinds of analysis were used. First, age group
differences were compared by means and percentages
316
Journal of Marketing Research,
Vol. IX (August 1972), 316-9
CHILDREN'S PURCHASE INFLUENCE ATTEMPTS
317
Table 1
FREQUENCY OF CHILDREN'S ATTEMPTS TO INFLUENCE PURCHASES AND PERCENTAGE OF
MOTHERS' "USUALLY" YIELDING
Pvofiuct V
A. fL/HUk^tO
Relevant foods
Breakfast cereal
Snack foods
Candy
Soft drinks
Jell-o
Overall mean
Overall percentage
Less relevant foods
Bread
Coffee
Pet food
Overall mean
Overall percentage
Durables, for child's use
Game, toy
Clothing
Bicycle
Hot wheels
Record album
Camera
Overall mean
Overall percentage
Notions, toiletries
Toothpaste
Bath soap
Shampoo
Aspirin
Overall mean
Overall percentage
Other products
Automobile
Gasoline brand
Laundry soap
Household cleaner
Overall mean
Overall percentage
On a scale from 1 = often to 4
^ 5-7 years, n - 43; 8-10 years, n
5-7 years
1.26
1.71
1.60
2.00
2.54
1.82
3.12
3.93
3.29
3.45
1.24
2.76
2.48
2.43
3.36
3.91
2.70
2.29
3.10
3.48
3.64
3.13
3.55
3.64
3.69
3.71
3.65
= never.
= 32; 11-12
Frequency
8-10 years
1.59
2.00
2.09
2.03
2.94
2.13
2.91
3.91
3.59
3.47
1.63
2.47
2.59
2.41
2.63
3.75
2.58
2.31
2.97
3.31
3.78
3.09
3.66
3.63
3.75
3.84
3.72
years, n ~
of requests'-
11-12 years
1.97
1.71
2.17
2.00
2.97
2.16
3.43
3.97
3.24
3.49
2.17
2.29
2.77
3.20
2.23
3.71
2.73
2.60
3.46
3.03
3.97
3.26
3.51
3.83
3.71
3.74
3.70
34; Af = 109.
Total^
1.59
1.80
1.93
2.01
2.80
2.03
3.16
3.94
3.36
3.49
1.65
2.52
2.61
2.67
2.78
3.80
2.67
2.39
3.17
3.28
3.79
3.16
3.57
3.70
3.72
3.76
3.69
5-7 years
88
52
40
38
40
51.6
14
2
7
7.6
57
21
7
29
12
2
25.6
36
9
17
5
16.8
2
2
2
2
2. 0
Percentage
8-10 years
91
62
28
47
4 1
53.8.
28
0
3
10.3
59
34
9
19
16
3
28.0
44 .
9
6
6
16.3
0
0
0
3
.75
of yielding
11-12 years
83
77
57
54
26
59.4
17
0
11
9.3
46
57
9
17
46
0
35.0
40
9
23
0
18.0
0
3
3
0
1.50
Total*'
87
63
42
46
36
54.8
19
1
7
9.0
54
37
8
22
24
2
29.4
39
9
16
4
17.0
12
2
2
2
1.75
for three age groups.' Here we were simply looking for
trends; no overall statistical test was used because no
single test was appropriate, and a series of statistical
tests of differences on items might be misleading.^
Second, zero-order and partial correlations were
computed to examine relationships between various
independent variables and the dependent variables.
Multiple regression techniques were not used because
' Analysis of variance to test for statistical significance of age
group differences was not used because subjects were not randomly
assigned to experimental groups.
^ Multivariate analysis of variance was not appropriate. First,
we did not have random experimental groups. Second, we did not
expect that all the items in a scale would have the same age group
patternas indeed they did not; however, multivariate analysis of
variance assumes that the pattern of differences across experimental
groups is essentially the same for all items.
we expected that there would be a number of interac-
tions among the independent variables; the additive
regression model tends to obscure these interactions
and also some zero-order relationships, depending on
the specific type of interactions which occur. On the
other hand, the small number of cases prevented us from
examining many variables at one time to look for
second- and third-order interactions. Our analysis
examined trends and variables which might prove to be
useful predictors in subsequent research.
FINDINGS
Purchase Infiuence Attempts
Mothers were asked to indicate the frequency of
their child's purchase influence attempts for 22 products
318
JOURNAL OF MARKETING RESEARCH, AUGUST 1972
(Table 1). All were heavily advertised, but varied in
price, frequency of purchase, and relevance to the child
(direct consumption or use by the child vs. consump-
tion or use by other family members). Analysis of
marginal data indicated that children frequently at-
tempted to influence purchases for food products, but
these attempts decreased with age.
Durables which the child uses directly were the second
most requested product category. Mothers of younger
children (5 to 7 years old) indicated frequent influence
attempts for game and toy purchases, while mothers of
older children (11 to 12 years old) indicated frequent
purchase influence attempts for clothing and record
albums. Across four product categories, purchase in-
fluence attempts appear to decrease with age.
Parental Yielding
Data in Table 1 indicate that across most product
categories the older the child, the more likely mother.s
are to yield to influence attempts, perhaps because
older children generally asked for less. It may also
result from mothers' attributing greater competence in
making judgments about products to older children.
Mothers were most likely to yield to purchase influence
attempts for food productsthe same products chil-
dren most often asked for.
Correlates of Infiuence Attempts and Yielding
The correlation between children's purchase influence
attempts and mothers' yielding was positive and sta-
tistically significant {r = .35). Clearly, children who
ask for products more often receive them more often.
However, since the correlation was not high, it is likely
that some of the independent variables were differen-
tially related to these two dependent variables.
Table 2
CORRELATIONS BETWEEN CHILD'S PURCHASE INFLUENCE
AHEMPTS, PARENTAL YIELDING, AND
THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLES
Demographics
Child's age
Number of children
Social class
Interpersonal variables
Parent-child conflict
Restrictions on viewing
Communication variables
Mother's time spent with television
Recall of commercials
Attitudes toward advertising
Child's
purchase
influence
attempts
- . 1 3
- . 0 0
- . 01
.18"
- . 01
.18"
.26*
- . 0 0
Parental
yielding
.20*
- . 0 0
.00
- . 00
- . 24
.23"
.04
.16"
.01.
.05.
Table 2 shows relationships between the three kinds
of independent variables and the two dependent varia-
bles. The various independent variables were relatively
independent of each other, since correlations among
them were rather low.
Examining demographic predictors, essentially no
relationships were found between the dependent varia-
bles and number of children in the family and social
class. The relationship between age and influence at-
tempts approached significance {r = .13) and was
negative. On the other hand, as revealed in previous
analyses of means, a positive correlation obtained be-
tween age and parental yielding to purchase influence
attempts. Thus, while parents may receive more pur-
chase influence attempts from young children, they are
more likely to act on them as the child grows older.
While many other parent-child variables may be
important predictors of the dependent variables, con-
flict and restrictions on television viewing are presuma-
bly related to control parents may attempt to exert over
children. The data indicate a significant positive rela-
tionship between conflict and influence attempts {r =
.18), suggesting that purchase influence attempts may
be part of a general pattern of disagreement and con-
flict between parents and childrenperhaps even a
cause of them. No relationship was observed between
conflict and yielding. It seems that few parents "punish"
their child by failing to yield to purchase influence
attempts.
Restrictions on viewing and yielding were negatively
related. Thus the more restrictions parents place on a
child's television viewing, the less they yield to his pur-
chase influence attempts. Interestingly, however, no
relationship obtained between restrictions and influence
attempts. Apparently, this form of parental control is
not effective in reducing a child's purchase influence
attempts.
For the final set of independent variables, the data
indicated positive relationships between mothers' time
spent watching television and influence attempts and
yielding. This result may simply reflect the greater
availability to children of mothers who watch a great
deal of television. Moreover, perhaps influence attempts
and promises of yielding occur when mothers and
children watch television together.
Mothers' recall of commercial content, measured by a
series of fiU-in-the-blank advertising identification
items, was positively related to purchase influence
attempts, but not to yielding. Some previous research
has suggested that recall of commercials is mainly a
function of intelligence [7]. Thus the relationship be-
tween recall and the two dependent variables may indi-
cate that although children of more intelligent mothers
ask for more products, these mothers are less likely to
yield to these influence attempts.
Finally, a weak positive relationship obtained between
attitudes toward advertising and yielding. Mothers with
more positive attitudes toward advertising were more
CHILDREN'S PURCHASE INFLUENCE ATTEMPTS
319
likely to yield to purchase influence attempts than moth-
ers with less favorable attitudes; their children were no
more likely to ask for products than other children,
however.
Partial correlation coefficients were also computed
for all these relationships, with age of the child con-
trolled. Data indicated only slight changes in the pat-
terns of relationships reported above.
SUMMARY
Children's purchase influence attempts may decrease
somewhat with age, depending on the type of product,
but mothers' yielding to requests increases with age,
probably reflecting a perceived increased competence
of older children in making judgments about purchase
decisions.
Aspects of parent-child conflict are related to influence
attempts and yielding. The data suggest that influence
attempts may be part of a more general parent-child
conflict; furthermore, mothers who restrict viewing are
likely not to yield to purchase influence attempts.
Finally, mothers' time spent watching television is
positively related to influence attempts and yielding,
while recall of commercials is positively related only to
influence attempts. Mothers with positive attitudes to-
ward advertising are more likely than mothers with
negative attitudes to yield to influence attempts.
In future research, other aspects of parent-child
interaction and their influence on the dependent varia-
bles will be examined. Moreover, characteristics of the
viewing situation should be considered. It may be that
joint parent-child or family viewing increases the inci-
dence of purchase influence attempts and further,
several children "ganging up" on parents may increase
their yielding to purchase influence attempts. Finally,
characteristics of children should be examined.
REFERENCES
1. Berey, L. A. and R. W. Pollay. "The Influencing Role of the
Child in Family Decision-Making," Journat of Marketing Re-
searcti, 5 (February 1968), 70-2.
2. Chaffee, Steven, Scott Ward, and Leonard Tipton. "Mass
Communication and Political Socialization," Joiimatism Quar-
terty, 47 (Winter 1970), 647-59.
3. Ttie Dynamics of Housetiotd Brand Decision-Making. New York:
Time/Life, Inc., 1967.
4. Granbois, D. H. "The Role of Communication in the Family
Decision-Making Process," unpublished paper, Indiana Uni-
versity, 1967.
5. Halloran, James D., Roger L. Brown, and David C. Chaney.
Tetevision and Delinquency. Leicester, Eng.: Leicester Uni-
versity Press, 1970.
6. McLeod, Jack, Garrett O'Keefe, and Daniel B. Wackman.
"Communication and Political Socialization During the Adoles-
cent Years," paper presented at meetings of the Association for
Education in Journalism, 1969.
7. Ward, Scott and Daniel B. Wackman. "Family and Media
Influences on Adolescent Consumer Behavior," American
Betiaviorat Scientist, 14 (January-February 1971), 415-27.
8. Yankelovich, Daniel, Inc. "Mothers' Attitudes Toward Chil-
dren's Programs and Commercials," unpublished paper, Action
for Children's Television, 1970.