Consuming for friendship : Children´s perceptions of relational consumption

Detta är en avhandling från Linnaeus University Press

Sammanfattning: Swedish children have, from a historical perspective and compared with many other countries, greater economic resources and a higher material living standard. However, there is a widening gap between affluent and vulnerable households in Sweden. At the same time, children are targets for significant pressure to consume in order to gain inclusion among peers. This thesis aims to investigate how children, between the ages of 9 and 12, perceive consumption, as part of their social life among peers. Children’s own perspectives are central throughout the thesis. Therefore, an additional aim is to make a contribution to the debate concerning how to interpret children in their roles as consumers. A research overview of Nordic consumer research relating to tweens was carried out. Thereafter, empirical data was collected through projective focus group interviews and drawings. In total, 101 children, from four different schools, participated in the study. The location and prestige of the schools confirms that the selected children were mixed in terms of class and ethnicity. The results are presented in four articles that provide different segments in the understanding of how children perceive consumption in their social life among peers. In the summary chapters, a synthesized analysis shows, among other things, that most children perceived consumption as a useful tool to enhance social relationships with peers. However, some children expressed moral values concerning consumption, where they emphasised that it felt “wrong to buy friends”. Moreover, the children’s perceptions of consumption varied depending on age, gender and neighbourhood. The analysis suggests that we need to address children both as competent and dependent individuals, in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of children as consumers. Additionally, a new concept, relational consumption, is developed from the children’s perceptions of consumption, principally referring to consumption used to create, strengthen and maintain social relationships. In summary: the work presented in this thesis contributes to increase the knowledge about 9 to 12 year old children’s perceptions of consumption in today’s Swedish society and demonstrates the importance for social work to address the aspect of relational consumption.

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