Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marketing (Business Administration)

First Advisor

Alvin C. Burns


Sociological changes in the American family have positioned children to wield greater power in family purchase decisions. Although past descriptive research has confirmed that children are an important source of power in the household, this research has not explored the conceptual justification for the observed patterns of children's relative influence. To fill this gap in the family decision-making literature, this research develops a multi-theoretical conceptual model to explain children's relative influence in a purchase context. Social power theory, resource theory, social exchange theory, and social comparison theory were the conceptual frameworks for this research. Six studies were conducted, including a pretest and a final study with 1211 mother-child pairs. Results of these studies demonstrate that children's relative influence is affected by four factors: children's active influence, children's passive influence, decision history, and preference intensity. In addition, this research examined the determinants of children's direct influence attempts and found that children were capable of assessing their personal resources and determining the appropriate direct influence attempt which yielded the greatest return. Decision history and preference intensity did not have a direct effect on children's direct influence attempts. This research also examined the impact of communication on a child's preference intensity for a product or service and found that interpersonal communication, not impersonal communication, was the most important factor in determining a child's desire for a toy purchase. Finally, children's relative influence was found to be moderated by the child's gender, race/ethnicity, birth order, and the number of children in the household. Implications for consumer research and directions for future research are provided.