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The First Four-wheeled Status Symbol: Pram Consumption as a Vehicle for the Construction of Motherhood Identity

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Abstract:

While it is a generally accepted idea within marketing that the family life cycle stage is a useful indicator of consumer behaviour, more researchers now suggest focusing on consumption related to the actual transitions between life cycle stages. The present article should be seen as an attempt to contribute to the development of a more general understanding of how consumption (objects) may contribute (on a symbolic level) to consumers' transitions between stages in their life cycle. To this end, we will introduce and apply an analytical framework that integrates the ideas that (1) objects can support identity construction, because of their signal value or because of their potential to provide the consumer with a certain experience of self, (2) these meanings can reside in either a public or in a more private domain, and (3) these meanings can be vehicles for the maintenance as well as the acquisition of new life roles. More specifically, we investigate the ways in which a pram can contribute to a woman's transition into motherhood as well as to the maintenance of her new identity as a mother. The study shows that pram consumption offers a broad range of symbolic meanings which women may tap into in the course of their identity construction as mothers. The findings also support the ideas that consumption is related to the concept of role embrace and that liminal consumers rely on consumption symbolism to approach a desired motherhood identity. It is also suggested that post-liminal consumers may have to dispose of products, in order fully to escape any discomforts of liminality.

Keywords: CONSUMER IDENTITY; LIFE ROLE TRANSITION; MOTHERHOOD; PRAM CONSUMPTION; SYMBOLIC CONSUMPTION

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1362/026725706778935619

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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