There has been a time when children caught less attention of researches and marketers as consumers because of the limited disposable money they possess (Ward, 1974) and the inconsequential opinions they can express. Things are changing substantially nowadays, in fact, children play a significant and unique part as consumers today, not only because they have more freely controlled pocket money than they did before, but also because more and more parents respect their children’s opinions, regard their children as independent thinkers and take their children’s advice into consideration while making buying decisions. According to a research conducted in 2003, children around the world spend approximately $300 billion of their pocket money or income every year, and have another total value of $1.88 trillion influence on household expenditure decisions (Lindstrom & Seybold, 2003). Moreover, as future consumers, the skills, knowledge and attitudes the children acquire in their early life will have an effect on their adulthood consumer behavior, thus provide marketers and policy makers an approach to predict the trend of consumers’ skills, knowledge and attitudes in the years to come. As a result, the studies of children as consumers, as well as the way that they develop consumer behavior and the factors those affect the changing of consumer behavior in their adulthood become more and more important. The studies of children as consumers attract the attention of large variety of groups including marketers, scholars, policy makers as well as parents.
This paper will review the researches that have been done in the topics of consumer socialization, children as future consumer, socialization agents and the role family played in the socialization process. In the end, it concludes with several suggestions for further studies in this area.
Children as consumers
The researches of children’s brand loyalty (Guest, 1955) and conspicuous consumption (Reisman & Roseborough, 1955) marked the beginning of children-as-consumers studies. In the 1960s, more researches were performed in other fields, such as the concept of marketing and retail functions of children (McNeal, 1964) and how do children influence their parents’ purchasing decisions (Berey & Pollay, 1968). In the mid-1970s, the studies of children as consumers were flourishing due to the government’s concern of the influence that television and advertisement had on children (John, 1999). It was that time when consumer socialization came into being.
Many consumer scholars believe that people develop consumption knowledge, skills and attitudes not only in their childhood, but also in their adulthood (Moschis, 1987) and even when they acquire new roles in life (Mergenhagen, 1994), for example being a husband or wife, father of mother. However, many still believe that the majority of learning process takes place in childhood and adolescence (Zhou, 2010).
Scott Ward (1974) first defined...