Denise D. Schoenbachler, Northern Illinois University
Douglas J. Ayers, Northern Illinois University
Geoffrey L. Gordon, Northern Illinois University
This paper draws on social learning and consumer socialization theory to propose socialization
agents and social structural variables responsible for the development of consumption symbolism
in young people. Specifically, age, social class and sex are social structural variables which are
likely to influence the development of consumption symbolism in adolescents. Peers, the family
and the mass media are socialization agents which influence young people's ability to view
products as symbols. Research propositions are presented which outline theoretical relationships
between the socialization and social structural agents and the development of consumption
symbolism with adolescents.
Teenagers spend roughly $89 billion a year--$57 billion from their own earnings and $32 billion
from allowances (Tully 1994). In addition, they exert influence over approximately $200 billion
in family purchases each year (Zinn 1994). In terms of numbers alone, the teen market is
expected to reach an all time high in the next decade, growing at close to twice the rate of the
overall population. By 2010, this demographic "bulge" will top the Baby Boom teen market of
the 1960's and 1970's in terms of both size and duration (Zinn 1994).
As teens' purchasing power, market size, and family influence increase, it becomes vital for
marketers to understand this unique market. Understanding the teenage market includes
examining consumption symbolism, since this phenomenon peaks in adolescence and influences
teens' choice behavior as well as potentially influencing prejudice and stereotyping (Belk, Bahn
and Mayer 1982). Consumption symbolism evident in young people may also carry over into
adulthood, leading to increased stereotyping and... [continues]
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