The Parental Influence In Their Kids Lives

Word Count: 2353 |

Throughout generations parents have had an impact on their child’s education and learning ability. It is strange for a child to succeed and accomplish a goal that requires 12- 16 years of school without his or her parents or guardians standing next to them to support them with their studies. A parent can have a positive contribution to their children’s success if the child understands what the parent is trying address. This includes the influence that parents have on their children’s shopping and spending habits. Children watch parents and mimic their actions. If parents give into the current trends and if they represent a materialistic lifestyle, their kids will see this and become it.
There was a time when merchants thought of kids as penny-candy purchasers, or worse, as those little nuisances that accompany customers and who should be seen, at most, and not heard at all. Not anymore. A combination of social forces–newly married couples postponing children until careers are established, families choosing a smaller number of children, moms working full time and a growing number of single-parent households–have produced a generation of children that parents give more to and ask more of. The net result is more self-reliant children who have a lot of money to spend and have influence on household spending.

All this translates into new market opportunity for merchants. And not just one market, but three markets in one. Research shows that children, ages 4-to-12, are a primary market of consumers that spend $6.1 billion a year of their own money on whatever they wish. They allocate it roughly in this manner. They spend $2.1 billion on sweets and snacks, $1.9 billion on play items, $690 million on clothing and shoes, $606 million on movies and sporting events, $486 million on entertainment at video arcades, and $264 million on a wide array of other items including music, hobbies and consumer electronics. Kids’ spending has increased around 10% a year during the decade of the ’80s and shows letting up.
Children’s store visits actually begin as soon as they are able to sit erect in a shopping cart. By the time they are tweens (not kids, not teens, in betweens) they probably have made 1,500 visits to most types of stores. These interactions with stores provide children extensive opportunity to form knowledge, attitudes and preferences about specific retail outlets. And they provide retailers much opportunity to build relationships with the younsters–relationships that hopefully last a lifetime.

“Recently developed normative versus informative interpersonal influence scales were modified and extended to explore interpersonal influences in teen apparel shopping. Three major influence sources were considered-peers, parents, and the media. Major findings indicated that teens receive significantly more parental influences during special shopping than ordinary shopping; parent-and media-informative influences exceed almost all others whereas media-normative influence is dominated by almost all other influences. These findings suggest that advertisers and marketers could avoid targeting teens with normative messages, since they are more likely to reach teens through informative messages specifically directed at their parents. Teen age, gender, family size, and gift money to teens were found to significantly affect the level and type of teen apparel shopping influences.” (Mascarenhas, Higby) Children’s peers influence their buying habits, but usually to a lesser extent than their parents. Friends will probably be the main source of influence as your child grows older, however. Leaders in a group of friends have been found to have the most impact on what your child wants to buy. Therefore instilling sensible buying habits in seven- or eight-year-old children will help them make better choices as teenagers.

Media messages influence children’s buying habits. These messages not only provide information, but also influence children’s views on the quality and desirability of products. Children spend more time checking prices when they are spending their own money. “At this age, however, they sometimes find it hard to compare prices between products or stores, even if they know how much money they can spend. When asking you to spend your money, your child is less likely to be influenced by price. But you can introduce price into a discussion by comparing the cost of what your children ask for with that of things they already have.” (Miller) Children, like all consumers, rely heavily on their tastes when making purchases. Children may seem to want absolutely everything, but in reality, their tastes are slowly becoming more discriminating. “Seven- and eight-year-olds know where they can buy what they want. They have likely been going to stores and restaurants with their parents for a long time. Children are often influenced by these places because they recognize the symbols associated with the businesses. Most children as young as seven and eight already prefer certain stores. Shopping may be one of their favorite activities.” (Miller)

“Industry’s final line of defense is that parents always have the option of protecting their children from advertising. They can turn off the television and just say no. When parents let their children watch, they are giving tacit approval” (Schor 183). Of course the marketing in schools and other public places affect the young consumers, but it is the role and responsibility of the parent to limit or even eliminate excess consumer culture, ie. Media. “If children have become too materialistic, or obese, or aggressive, it’s because parents aren’t doing their jobs” (Schor 183). When parents fail to set limits or exercise judgment, the outcomes can be terrible. Forty one percent of parents too the view that “it is getting harder and harder to set limits with kids because so much advertising is aimed at making kids feel they need all of these products in order to fit it.” (Schor, 185)

Children are also a market of influences that directly cause the spending of over $128 billion of household purchases through their requests to parents. For example, children may average making 15 purchase requests to parents during a store visit with them. In addition to influencing parents’ purchases in the shopping environment, kids make purchase requests at home, in the car, at the movies, during TV viewing, even in church. The $128 billion of household spending that children directly influence consists of $79.3 billion for foods and beverages, $16.5 billion on play items, $13.2 billion for apparel, $3.26 billion for health and beauty aids, and $16.2 billion on general household items such as consumer electronics and furnishings.

“Parents usually have a great deal of influence on children aged seven and eight. Children this age spend a lot of time with their parents, which usually means that they have more confidence in what their parents say than what their peers say. Parents also know how much money their children have and will stop them from going overboard. Parents normally know their children well enough to tell whether a purchase is appropriate.” (Miller) The amounts of influence that children have on parental purchases and the kinds of things they influence are both likely to grow as parents increasingly view their requests as responsibility. That is, their requests give direction to what otherwise may be postponed or not even considered by their busy working parents.

“A major thrust of contemporary marketing to children is the interposition of the marketer between the parent and child. Marketers create utopian spaces free of parents and employ insidious dual messaging strategies” (Schor 160). Children are a future market for all goods and services. Thus, as future consumers they are an important market to all merchants. This is not just an airy statement to those retailers who must competitively cultivate preferences among consumers for their stores and their offerings. There are, after all, only two places for a store to get new customers. It either can switch them away from competitors- by definition they can be switched back- or it can develop them from the pool of young potential customers who have not yet entered the marketplace. The latter strategy has been shown to produces a more loyal customer in the end.
A recent study shows that well over half of major retail chains now acknowledge children as one or more of these three markets through a variety of merchandising strategies. Some retailers whose offerings are not targeted to children still direct some marketing efforts to them in order to make it easier to convert then into customers when they reach market age. One of these retailers has developed an ongoing community affairs program aimed primarily at children. Other store chains have instituted a multidimensional segmentation strategy through which they target children as members of all three markets. They offer a merchandise mix to them as current consumers, they encourage them as potential influencers of household purchasers through advertising and promotions, and they have some overall policies and practices aimed at keeping them as customers.

Retailers who target children as potential customers should keep in mind that kids are not just mini-adults. They are consumer trainees with the minds of children who happen to be maturing earlier in the consumer role than those of past generations. They can be easily misled, offended and misunderstood. Marketing to them requires special skills to be developed or brought on board. They require an investment just as any other new market segment does. But they are worth more than any other market segment because they have more potential.

“Children’s influence is being driven by a number of factors, including changes in parenting style” (Schor 24). Previous research shows that parental work arrangements influence the amount of time that parents spend with their children (Bianchi 2000; Booth et al 2002), parental psychological well-being (Barnett and Hyde 2001; Hoffman and Youngblade 1999), and the amount of money that parents have. Research also concludes that more of each of these resources (time, money, psychological well-being) is beneficial to children’s development either directly, or indirectly through the quality of parenting behaviors and the home environment (Cowan, Powell and Cowan 1998; Hoffman and Youngblade 1999; Repetti and Wood 1997; Smith, Brooks-Gunn and Klebanov 1997).

In reality however, parents cannot simply maximize each of these resources; instead they typically must make trade-offs between resources. For instance, parents working longer hours may have less time available for their children, but more money, than parents working shorter hours. “Time starved households have become easy prey for marketers, whose research shows that parents who spend less time with their children will spend more money on them” (Schor 25). After examining the trade-offs that parents make when they select work-family arrangements, and whether these trade-offs are associated with young children’s development. If parents are indeed making these trade-offs, and different resource allocation strategies are associated with similar child outcomes, then this trading off of advantages and disadvantages will provide one explanation for the lack of direct effects of maternal employment on children’s development that has been researched but not adequately explained.

Indeed it is likely that sometimes a child will benefit from additional money more than additional parental time, while at other times a child, even the same child, might need parental time more than money, “guilt money.” However, I do not expect to find one particular resource allocation strategy to be associated with better child outcomes. the lack of direct effects of maternal employment on children’s development, a finding which researchers and parents find counterintuitive since there are multiple indirect effects of parents’ work-family strategies on development. Sometimes kids need to spend more time with their parents than with others. A parent can teach a child to a certain point but it’s up to the child if he or she wants to comprehend. In different cases sometimes the odds can go better off because then it makes you try harder and to strive for your goal.


Bianchi, Suzanne. 2000. “Maternal Employment and Time with Children: Dramatic Change or Surprising Continuity?” Demography, 37(4): 401-414.

Booth, Cathryn, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Kathleen McCartney and Margaret Tresch Owen. 2002. “Child-Care Usage and Mother-Infant ‘Quality Time’.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 64: 16-26.

Cowan, Philip, Douglas Powell, and Carolyn Pape Cowan. 1998. “Parenting Interventions: A Family Systems Perspective.” Handbook of Child Psychology: Fifth Edition, v.4. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hoffman, Lois and Lise Youngblade. 1999. Mothers at Work: Effects on Children’s Well-Being. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Mascarenhas, Oswald A. J. University of Detroit Mercy
Mary A. Higby University of Detroit Mercy
Peer, Parent, and Media Influences in Teen Apparel Shopping

Miller, Daniel. The Financial Guide for Children: Seven- and eight-year-olds

Schor, Juliet B. Born to Buy. New York: Scribner, 2004.

Smith, Judith, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Pamela Klebanov. 1997. “Consequences of Living in Poverty for Young Children’s Cognitive and Verbal Ability and Early School Achievement.” In Greg Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (Eds). Consequences of Growing Up Poor. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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