Secret to smart shopping: The right parenting style
Have you ever wondered how to raise children who will become wise consumers once they are adults? Turns out that parents are the primary agents who will socialize their children — more than friends, other adults or organizations such as churches.
To find out which parenting styles help children best learn skills and attitudes needed to be smart consumers, researchers analyzed data from 73 studies nationwide. The results of their meta-analysis are available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Categories that define four basic parenting styles:
(1) Authoritative parents are more likely to tell children what they want them to do while explaining why. Researchers describe them as "restrictive" yet with "warm" communication. These parents tend to relate quite effectively with their children and expect them to act maturely and follow family rules, while also allowing a certain degree of autonomy.
(2) Authoritarian parents are also restrictive, but not as likely to exhibit as much warmth in their communication. "They are more likely to tell a child what to do and not explain why,"explains researcher Les Carlson, professor of marketing, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
(3) Neglecting parents offer little guidance for their children's development and limited monitoring of activities.
Indulgent parents are lenient, compliant, and give children adult rights without expecting them to take on responsibilities.
Researchers found that many studies showed children of authoritative parents had the best outcomes when interacting with the world around them. These children consumed healthier foods like fruits and vegetables, and made safer choices such as wearing a bike helmet. They also provided valuable opinions on family consumption decisions.
"I think that our culture has changed over time to be more permissive with children, but we found a lot of evidence that demonstrated that it is okay to be restrictive with kids," Carlson says. "It's also important to explain to kids why the restrictions are important."
The analysis shows that children of restrictive parents were less likely to engage in cyberbullying, theft, vandalism, drug use and feelings of having an unattractive body shape, what the study authors termed "negative consumer socialization outcomes."
To apply these findings to daily life, parents could proactively train their children through activities like taking them shopping and guiding them in decisions, Carlson adds.
"Parents can talk about why they are skeptical of advertising they may see in a store to teach children how to filter information.
"Watching television with children is another opportunity to engage with them in conversation about what they are seeing to teach them how to be fully informed consumers."
Les Carlson PhD, Professor of Marketing, holds the Nathan Gold Distinguished Professorship in Marketing, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Children develop into consumers via consumer socialization, which include the processes by which young people acquire skills, knowledge, and attitudes important for their interaction with the marketplace. And while many potential agents, such as friends, other adults, or organizations, also participate in the socialization of children, including adaptation to the marketplace, parents are the primary socialization agents of children. Researchers agree that parents' differential socialization efforts can be explained by a framework which classifies parents by how they differentially raise and communicate with children, i.e. parental style.
This study will appear in expanded version in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
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