Doing Consumption, Doing Family

Jan Phillips, Kennesaw State University


Seeking to acknowledge children as active participants in consumption, this essay examines adult-child negotiation over processes, items, and agency in commodity consumption broadly defined. This work makes the case that we should emphasize such negotiation when studying families and consumption, arguing that this form of interaction helps define and construct not just family members as consumers but, more importantly, the social essence of family as well. Using examples from current scholarly literature, as well as analysis of observation in public places and "toy odes" done by traditional and non-traditional college students, the essay illustrates how interacting children and adults negotiate whose agency is recognized not only in purchasing but also in anticipating, knowing about and talking of, and using the stuff of consumption. In truth, this negotiation is not an encounter with something apart from family, nor is it a small piece of etching our family dynamics. In modern consumption-based societies, increasingly it is a major force in socially constructing or "doing" family.