The Construction of Everyday Consumption By Children and Their Families

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:06 AM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Valerio BELOTTI , Fisppa, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Claudia ANDREATTA , Fisppa, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Italo DE SANDRE , Fisppa, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Lucia NAPOLI , University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Morena TARTARI , Fisppa, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Caterina SATTA , University of Padua, Padua, Italy
This study aims to explore ways in which parental responsibilities are exercised, by analysing consumption experiences together with their accompanying negotiations and avoidance practices, as implemented by parents and children. In recent years, the issue of parental responsibility has inspired reflection and clarification in several disciplines and reflects changes emerging - at least in Western societies - in the social, cultural and legal regulation of family relations (Leira, Saraceno 2008).

A multi-method research analyses consumption experiences both qualitatively and quantitatively. A first research step concerns a series of focus groups with 29 children attending the last year of primary school (age 9-10). Then twenty narrative interviews and a focus group was carried out with their parents focusing on the theme of family consumption and negotiations with children. The thematic maps resulting from these two steps were used to elaborate a questionnaire for a survey that involved 494 children and 374 parents.

Results describe social representations of children and parents as consumers and practices of consumptions and negotiations. It highlights a typology of very young consumers which is highly sensitive to gender and cultural differences, where peer culture plays an important role to orient choices. Responsibility-giving and responsibility-depriving practises on the part of parents emerged during the description of day-to-day negotiations.

Children reveal competencies as to qualify them as competent actors of consumption, despite the image prevailing among the public at large. The exercise of parental responsibility reveals an ambivalence described in the literature (Qvortrup 2003; Hockey, James 1993; Jenks 1996; James, Curtis, Birch 2008) between child-protecting needs and the need to recognise and reinforce children’s autonomy and responsibility. These aspects would seem to reflect the differing but often coexisting representations of children as passive subjects or individuals endowed with agency.