On Becoming a Consumer

Development of Consumer Behavior Patterns in Childhood


  • James McNeal, Retired Professor, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA; Principal, McNeal & Kids, a youth marketing consulting firm; Visiting Professor, Peking University, China

The book demonstrates how consumer development is intertwined with cognitive and motor development; each of the three dependent on the other two. Showing consumer behavior being responsible for body and mind development is new thinking; yet, the examples are clearly presented so that any interested person can grasp them. Presenting consumer behavior in stages of development, while logical, is essentially new also. We are familiar with cognitive development, for example, being described in stages, but not CB. In fact, stages of cognitive development are sometimes used as a framework for explaining consumer behavior but not its development as such. In this sense then, the book might be considered cutting edge as compared to one that offers a slightly different approach to the existing thought on consumer behavior.
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Marketing professionals specializing in consumer behavior and children; Academic researchers in consumer behavior


Book information

  • Published: January 2007
  • ISBN: 978-0-7506-8335-7


"Dr. McNeal’s new book has taken his many years of research, teaching, and consulting and has provided a unique, comprehensive perspective on the consumer development process. This book is remarkably different from all other consumer behavior and child consumer books in that it examines the phenomenon of becoming, rather than simply being, a consumer. Its multidimensional focus examines the influence of several factors beyond just social influence on the development of cognitive, physical, social, and language skills. These developing skills are then shown to manifest in specific consumer behaviors, presenting a much needed, wider theoretical framework than has traditionally been used with child consumers. This is a must-read for anyone interested in better understanding the complex relationships between our children, our environment, and the marketplace." -- Sabrina M. Neeley, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Miami University, Oxford, OH "Dr. McNeal's discussion of how children 'become' consumers adds an important new dimension to this topic, and is useful for the student, the observer, the critic and the practitioner alike." -- Julie Halpin, Chief Executive Officer, Geppetto

Table of Contents

ON BECOMING A CONSUMER: DEVELOPMENT OF CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PATTERNS IN CHILDHOOD James U. McNeal PART I. INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1 On Becoming a ConsumerVignette: Yulan Wang Becomes a Fast Food ConsumerIntroductionWhat Is Consumer Behavior and Who Is a ConsumerIndependent and Dependent Consumer BehaviorWhy Dwell on the Development of Consumer Behavior Patterns in Childhood Consumer Behavior Is 24-7-360What Is Mean by Consumer Development In the Rest of the Book PART II ENVIRONMENTCHAPTER 2 Physical Environment of Consumer DevelopmentVignette: Tony's Photo of His Favorite Place and Favorite ThingsTwo Environments: Physical vs. SocialThe Contents of the Physical Environment: Objects, Objects, ObjectsThe Nature of the Physical EnvironmentOrigins of the Physical EnvironmentDiscussion CHAPTER 3 Social Environment of Consumer DevelopmentVignette: Two-year-old Howie's Favorite BrandChildren's Two Environments: Social and PhysicalContents of the Child's Social Environment: People and Near-PeopleNature of the Social Environment: Adults and PeersStages of Social DevelopmentDiscussionPART III PERSONAL DEVELOPMENTCHAPTER 4 Motor Development and Its Relation to Consumer Development Vignette: Wei Shen's Fast Food PurchasePhysical GrowthMotor DevelopmentPhases of Motor DevelopmentDiscussionCHAPTER 5 Cognitive Development and Its Relation to Consumer DevelopmentVignette: Shandra, the Eight-year-old Housekeeper IntroductionWhat Is Meant by Cognitive DevelopmentStages of Cognitive DevelopmentSensorimotor Stage (0-24 months)Preoperational Thought Stage (24-84 months)Concrete Operational Stage (84-132 months)Formal Operational Period (132-180 months)Discussion of Piagetian Theory of Cognitive DevelopmentPART IV CONSUMER DEVELOPMENTCHAPTER 6 Stage One: ObservationVignette'Baby Goes ShoppingIntroductionConsumer Development BrieflyThe Consumer EnvironmentStages of Consumer DevelopmentFirst Stage of Consumer Development: Observation (0-6 months)Development of Consumer Behavior Patterns Outside the Home Discussion: Formation of Basic Consumer Behavior PatternsADDENDUM: Research Thinking and Procedures Used for Measuring and Understanding Consumer Development among Children and Their ParentsCHAPTER 7 Stage Two: Seeking/RequestingVignette: Making a Smart Consumer Out of a Two-year-oldIntroductionStage Two: Seeking/Requesting (6-24 months)Substage One: Pre-language/Pre-legs (6-14 months)Substage Two: Post-language and Post-legs (14-24 months)Consumer MemoryHow Much/How Often Do Children Seek/Request ThingsDiscussion CHAPTER 8 Stage Three: Selecting/TakingVignette: Lawrence, a Terrible-Two TakerIntroductionTerrible Two's: A Special SituationStage Three: Selecting/TakingDiscussionCHAPTER 9 Stage Four: CopurchaseVignette: Carlos and His Mom Buy School Supplies and Ice Cream at the SupermarketIntroductionPhysical/Motor PhaseCognitive AbilitiesConsumer Behavior Patterns at HomeConsumer Behavior at Day Care and KindergartenConsumer Behavior in the MarketplaceSeeking/RequestingSelecting/Taking, Co-ShoppingStage Four: Co-PurchaseDiscussionCHAPTER 10 Stage Five: Independent PurchaseVignette: Jimmy and His Pal, Chris, as Independent ConsumersIntroductionEnvironment Expansion: SchoolPhysical Status of ChildrenCognitive DevelopmentStage Five: Independent PurchaseConsumer Behavior Patterns: Out-of-homeConsumer Behavior Patterns: In-homeDiscussionPART V DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONSCHAPTER 11: Parenting Implications of Consumer Development in Childhood'in progressCHAPTER 12: Marketing Implications of Consumer Development in Childhood'in progress