Doing it for the kids: the role of sustainability in family consumption

Elaine L. Ritch*, Douglas Brownlie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    304 Downloads (Pure)


    The purpose of this paper is to explore social dynamics around food and clothing provisioning for young families and how involvement in environmental concerns shapes those dynamics and presents challenges and opportunities to in terms of evolving consumer tastes. Through collecting and analysing narratives of mothering, the authors explore the influence of children on decision making in household provisioning; in particular, how their education into sustainable concepts through the European initiative of eco-schools impacts provisioning.

    The exploratory research design specifically sought the demographic profile identified in extant literature as engaging with sustainability issues to explore how they were interpreted into familial consumption. This resulted in 28 unstructured interviews exploring a range of related topics with a group of highly educated working mothers with a profession.

    The study finds that family consumption behaviour is mediated by relations towards environmental concerns and taste positions taken by both parents and children. It illustrates how care for children’s safety, social resilience and health and well-being is habitus informed as well as being the subject of wider institutional logics including educational interventions such as school eco-status and participation in mother and child activity groups. However, tensions arose surrounding the children’s socialisation with peers and space was provided to help the children self-actualise.

    Research limitations/implications
    The exploratory goal of the study limited the scope of its empirical work to a small group of participants sharing consumer characteristics and geographical location.

    Practical implications
    The research provides ideas for retailers, brands and marketers to better position their product offering as it relates to growing family concerns for ecological issues and sustainable consumption, as well as what motivates sustainable behaviours, from both the child and mothers perspective.

    Social implications
    The research identifies the immersion of sustainability into family households when there are no financial implications, influenced through campaigns, schools and society. This provides examples of what motivates sustainable behaviours for retailers and marketers to develop strategies that can be capitalised on.

    The originality of the research emerges through examining how children influence sustainability within households and decision making, moving beyond health implications to educate children to be responsible consumers through play and authentic experiences.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1100-1117
    Number of pages18
    JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2016


    • family consumption; socialisation; sustainability; children; education, concerned parenting, authenticity


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