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Generation 'Gimme' & Familial Recreation: The influence of children upon shaping 21st century family leisure time

Generation 'Gimme' & Familial Recreation: The influence of children upon shaping 21st century family leisure time
Author: Chris Hobson
1 Commentries
Abstract: Contemporarily children are increasingly purported to shape the family unit's consumer dispositions. This paper elucidates the current scope of authority that children wield upon familial leisure trends. The child's influence is calculated to be perceptible merely in the preliminary phase of decision making, however catalytic for day visitation & activity partaking.

Keywords: Children, Family consumerism, Family leisure decision dynamics

"I really only do it because of the children, and I think that's why most people do it. The reason is always that the children should have fun."

Debatably tourism may well be conceived as a type of recreational behaviour where movements are extensively dictated by groups, with the family nucleus recurrently the commonality behind such groupings (Dodd & Hansbro, 1993; Thornton et al., 1997). Yet the exerting influence of the demographic stratum of 3-18 years (children) upon the demand and provision of tourism for family entities is believed to be under-researched and under-valued within psychological economics. This paper will provide a multi-disciplinary insight into the child's specific authoritative influence vis-à-vis family recreational patterns (if any).

To commence by discussing family dynamics, a family social collective is characterised by a plurality of generations residing within the same dwelling (Lawson et al. 1996). Thus family decision making dynamics are multifariously structured as they do not embody singular preferences, rather idiosyncratic inclinations.

Chronologically a quantum social shift has transpired within family decision dynamics formerly authoritarian or patriarchal in character and profoundly prejudicial towards children. Familial choices of the 21st century are antithetically regarded by Bowen & Clarke (2009) to be considerably more syncretic in makeup. Theoretical reasoning for this sociological alteration is pertinently argued by Spree (1992) as collaborative with an antecedent authoritative childhood transitioning towards a more liberalised upbringing. Thus this diplomatic process amalgamates the multifaceted requirements of the cohort into one overall purchase preference. A coalescing process aptly enumerated by Belch et al, (1995) into three phases - problem identification (1); information search (2) and final decision making (3).

This liberalisation of decision making ethos surfaced concomitantly with the marketing theory branded as 'pester power', itself conceptually acknowledged as a power strategy within child psychology. Children's consumer power is presently believed to little influence the procurement of household durables but does constitute a degree of say concerning family activities. Even so fiscally speaking the 'gimme generation' in the United States alone is believed to have stimulated some $500 billion worth of purchasing behaviour in 1999 alone. Initially ignored, children acculturated under contemporary societal conditions are regarded by Belch et al (1985); Foxman et al; (1989) & Lackman & Lanasa, (1993) as being a transcendently vital determinant in the consumerist trends of today's family unit. A view exemplified by leisure statistics with research commissioned by Teletext Holidays in 2009 revealing 80% of children citing they were sometimes or always participatory in selecting holiday destination choice (Dennis, 2009).

A paucity of empirical studies have been published concerning which family member dictates decision making within leisure. Research by Wang et al (2004) using 240 investigable samples illuminated children possess minimalistic authority in all three phases of the decision making process itemised above by Belch et al (1995). Concluding children played merely a passive role within the 3 core processes of planning for a holiday. Subsequently Wang analysed in more detail choice maker within leisure sub-decisions discovering children mainly influenced 'activities' & secondly 'departure day'. Conversely children had practically no say concerning economic facets such as 'budget' & 'travel agent'. These findings were correlated by Decrop (2005) who deployed differing but related categorisations of sub-decisions. His dataset ascertained that children became lead decision maker for 'experience choices' akin to Wang et al's 'activities' as well as 'destination choice'. Even so anomalistically children are capable of persuading day visitation to child amicable settings such as Zoos, Legoland and Tobermory. As a result the occurrence of 'toddler tourism' has materialised on the Scottish island of Mull. Indicating parents wishing to gratify children by visiting the real scene of the BBC kids show as surmised by Dehany (2003). Apposite logic would imply this parental decision occurs to maintain the contentment of the child at least for short periods, in trepidation of 'pester power'.

To recapitulate, despite children's persuasion intensifying over generic consumerism. Based on this research it can be proposed that the 'gimme generation' applies minuscule influence over the 3 fundamental planning stages for prestigous recreation. As the key choices for overseas holidays subsist chiefly as egalitarian in format, with decision making still imbalanced towards the seniors of the group. Equally children have little noticeable influence regarding monetary considerations such as holiday budget. Nevertheless 'pester power's' force can impose strong influence over several choice variables, for instance it significantly enhances for the 'on the spot' decisions during the actual visitation period. Thus children enact the dominator role for interpersonal decisions with regards to 'tour'; 'activities' & 'attractions'. Resultantly the paper recommends caution must be adhered to in hindsight of the 2009 Telextext survey elucidating 80% of children participating in core family holiday choices. Hence correct channelling of ensuing strategies is necessitated, by gearing day activities towards young persons principally at family amicable destinations.


Key References

Decrop, A (2005). 'Group Processes in Vacation Decision-Making', Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 18 (3), pp. 23 - 36.

Thornton, P. R., Shaw, G. & Williams, A. M. (1997). 'Tourist group holiday decision-making and behaviour: the influence of children'. Tourism Management, 18 (5), pp. 287 - 297.

Wang, K; Hseih, A; Yeh, Y & Tsai, C (2004). 'Who is the decision-maker: The parents or the child in group package tours?', Tourism Management, 25 (2), pp. 183 -194.

Kids may try to persuade - but it is parents who decide
Author: Dorota Popowicz

This commentary draws conclusions to the concept of contemporary family travel and it is a reflection of Chris's summary who is arguing that children shape family holiday decision making dynamics. Indeed, as the generation gap clearly comes into play, the entire process of finding holiday destination suitable for each and every family member is complex and multifarious. Prior research has shown the decision making process to be joint, husband-, wife- or children-dominant (Belch et al., 1985; Nichols & Snepenger, 1988). However, Fodness (1992) still supports the traditional conclusion that the family holiday decision is most often the result of a joint decision making process.

Global family travel market is heterogeneous and certain tourist attractions are no-doubt aimed at particular age groups. Nevertheless, family holiday should satisfy needs of the entire family as a unit. Hence, logical would for family holidays to take place during school term-breaks and involve activities that stimulate children's learning and development. Those, however, would have solid grounding in what parents believe is best for their children and could be a continuation of upbringing philosophy of the particular family. Therefore, decisions of visiting children's focused attractions during family holidays cannot be seen as child's demand and domination in decision making process. It is rather a natural and sensible choice made while taking the needs of all family members into consideration. It is parents' sole decision to gratify and please their children while on holiday, deciding either on their presence or suitable activities that child has expressed desire to participate in. Ryan (1992) notices that satisfying the child generates a satisfactory experience for the adults.

An association between changes in family decision making dynamics and the progression of the family life cycle is observable, with respect to primary responsibility for the care of children and their ability to participate in leisure activities (Kelly, 1983). Children's influence however could be seen as passive rather than premeditated as those are physiological constraints.

It is important to recognise and understand the balance between parental-domination and joint family decision making. After all, if parents would not give an attention and not adapt their decisions to the preferences of the children; if they would not let children participate in decision making process- the practice would not be joint in any case but purely parents-dominated. As far as children have a little influence on the overall decision making process, their best chance to do so is to ally themselves with either the husband or wife to produce a majority position (Filiatrault & Ritchie, 1980). It is parents' obligation to estimate affordable holiday budget and propose holiday choices accordingly. Generally children only possess a role in making small-scale choices and none in major expensive purchases, such as holidays.

The alternative means of children influence on travel decisions is through negotiation with parents. However, while children possess the ability to make suggestions, the ultimate decision appears to remain with the parents. Overall, it has been proven that joint decision making is utilized by overwhelming majority of families and remains predominant form of holiday decision making.


Fodness, D. (1992) The impact of family life cycle on the vacation decision-making process. Journal of Travel Research.

Nichols, C.M. & Snepenger, D.J. (1988) Family Decision Making and Tourism Behaviour and Attitudes. Journal of Travel Research. 26 (4).

Ryan, C. (1992) The child as a visitor. World Travel and Tourism Review. pp: 135-139.