A Humanistic approach to understanding child consumer socialization in US homes

Lucy Atkinson, Michelle R. Nelson, Mark A. Rademacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present findings from a qualitative, multisite, multi-method, longitudinal study of parents and their preschool-aged children that explores the intersections of marketing influences in the home and in the larger outside world of children. Findings indicate that preschoolers represent complicated and nuanced "consumers in training" beyond predictions based on their "perceptual stage of development." Specifically, our data revealed interesting ways in which marketing and consumer culture can foster a number of pro-social consumer outcomes (e.g., charity, gift-giving, financial literacy). We also noted an emerging understanding by preschoolers of the social meanings of goods for identity construction and product evaluation. Finally, through a presentation of an idiographic case, we show how consumer socialization cannot be attributed to one factor such as media but is based on multiple and concurrent factors-parents, siblings, peers, and home environment-that act to moderate, mediate, and provide meaning for marketing messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-112
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Children and Media
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Consumer behavior
  • Consumer socialization
  • Ethnography
  • Parental influence
  • Preschool children
  • Pro-social consumption
  • Qualitative method
  • Social identity of consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


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