Identity, transition to motherhood and consumption choices
Priest, Jane Susannah
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A life course transition, such as becoming a mother, can have a profound effect on consumption choices as the new role is subsumed into identity. This thesis explores if and how perceptions of identity and identity transition interact with consumption, in the context of new motherhood. Research is lacking that explores whether or not consumption behaviour changes during the transition to motherhood and if it does, why and how. This research takes an interpretivist philosophical position and explores through the lens of consumer culture theory. A phenomenological research strategy was employed, involving a purposively sampled group of 26 women whose babies had been born in the previous 12 months. These women were living in the UK and were economically and socially privileged; 12 had one child, 14 had previous children. Using data from participant photo diaries and interviews, analysis was thematic and followed a hermeneutical approach. This research found that for women in this sample, when instability of identity and, in turn, instability of status was experienced, social relationships became more important and focus on consumption intensified, suggesting both compensatory and conspicuous properties. Learning to negotiate the baby product marketplace seemed to be symbolic of attaining a desired mother role. Using specific products and brands to display confidence, competence and commitment in their mother role and parenting style, women engaged, connected and identified with narrow (often localised) groups of peers but with time and experience, social influence tended to subside, enabling women to make freer consumption choices. Furthermore, identity change was experienced as an evolving process, involving ‘defining moments’, reflections on the past and expectations for the future. This had specific implications for experiences brought about by physical baby products, planning for nostalgia through consumption and attitudes towards sustainable consumption. This thesis contributes to marketing theory by showing that role identity transition and status transition are entwined and can intensify compensatory and conspicuous forms of consumption. For marketing practise, this suggests that attitudes towards product signals and branding may shift during life course transitions, with implications for lifestyle segmentation and positioning.