Land, Kinship and Life-Cycle


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The direction of consumer influence within a kinship network shifts with changes in the relative access of related households to resources in the formal economy and their dependence upon extended family resources for their consumption needs. An analysis of the structural characteristics of kinship networks is vital to understanding the underlying forces which shape and direct resource flows between families, and thus affect the extent of consumption interdependencies among families within a network. Depth is defined in terms of the number of generations "up" or "down" within a particular relationship in the network.

Parents, aunts, and uncles are one generation up, children are one generation down, and siblings are equivalent in depth. The range of a kinship tie refers to the number of links between individuals; near kin are distinguished from distant kin by the number of links which connect them. Network density is the extent to which kin know and interact with each other. In North America, kinship ties usually become non-salient beyond three of four links in depth and range Rossi and Rossi ; however, research indicates that not only the saliency of ties, but also the extent to which families rely upon each other, may vary substantially.


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Studies throughout the 's and 's have found that the working class relies heavily on extended family networks for camaraderie, job opportunities, advice on purchases, and help during crises e. Coleman Among the poor, research indicates that extended kinship networks may serve two functions: 1 as privatized welfare systems, picking up the slack where welfare fails to provide sufficient resources, or providing sole support for families who do not qualify for public assistance, and 2 as a coping mechanism for the stress associated with persistent poverty Kelly The importance of the family in preserving the ethnic consumption behaviors among these groups has been noted Hirschman In some rural areas, such as Alaskan native communities, intermarriage between relatives results in communities where nearly everyone is related; in Appalachian communities, lineage is an important factor affecting the flow of not only goods and services, but also family land Bryant The overlap of these diverse segments of the population into multiple categories i.

However, the number of groups which have been documented to rely upon extended family networks indicates that the focus of consumer research upon the nuclear family may have failed to capture significant variables affecting consumer behavior among a sizable portion of the population.

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Close geographic proximity may be the most important factor in explaining the high level of extendedness, interaction, and exchange which takes place among many kinship networks. As access to economic resources declines, the most important function of extended family ties may be the frequent exchange of mutual aid, requiring dense network structures and high levels of physical proximity between kin Stack While only a small percentage of the middle and upper class live close to their kin, 45 percent of the working class and 55 percent of the lower-class live within one linear mile Coleman However, the poor don't just live near each other, they often live with each other Angel and Tienda Furthermore, family constellations tend to be in perpetual transition as members move between households Beck and Beck , leading some researchers to state that the primary unit of analysis for this group should be the kinship exchange network Kelly There are two approaches to studying exchange networks: one focuses on the dyad and the other on the effect of network structure on social linkages Uehara Research in consumer behavior has tended to focus on the variables which affect the former; however, there may be pitfalls in conceptualizing groups as if they were a collection of dyadic relationships.

Social exchange networks, such as kinship networks, can involve both generalized and restricted forms of exchange Ekeh Restricted exchange is dyadic A gives to B , while generalized exchange links several network participants A gives to B who gives to C who gives to A. Consequently, studies which focus on dyadic relationships may only capture a portion of the exchange process, and miss the synergies of group cohesion created by generalized exchange.

P4 Research studying the consumption interdependence among related households should measure and account for: 1 the depth, range, and density of the kinship structure, 2 the geographic proximity of members, and 3 the direction, frequency, and duration of network exchange behaviors. Analysis should not be limited to dyadic exchanges, but should include all network participants who may be involved in more generalized forms of exchange. The effects of exchange behaviors upon family consumption depends upon the nature and strength of relationships between kin.


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  • The intensity of a relationship is measured by the degree of perceived obligations between kin, while encapsulation refers to the extent to which family members are more "intensely" linked to each other than to those outside of the network. High levels of density, intensity, and encapsulation have been associated with generalized exchange behaviors and group cohesion Uehara , and may account for some of the structural barriers which impede consumer assimilation among ethnic groups.

    Within the family network, the highest level of intensity is felt toward spouse and children Robins and Tomanec Kinship ties to members of the family of origin C parents and siblings C tend to be stronger than other extended kinship ties C grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins Sussman and Burchinal Higher obligations are expressed to descendants than to ascendants, and to females than to males Rossi and Rossi Variables such as age, marital status, and financial status can affect perceptions of obligation to kin Aldous ; Stoller For example, the very young and the very old cannot be expected to participate in reciprocal relationships, implying that the direction of consumer influence between kin may change directions over an individual's life cycle.

    Since an individual's role complexity within the kinship network tends to increase with age, the rising longevity of the population has resulted in an increasing number of individuals who are "sandwiched" between generations. Research on role function within kinship networks consistently indicates that the overwhelming majority of kinkeeping activities is carried out by middle-aged women, who do most of the visiting, telephoning, and letter writing, orchestrate family gatherings, and assume primary responsibility for the physical care of kin e.

    Rosenthal When multiple family members require simultaneous assistance, the multiple roles held by these women mother, daughter, wife, sister increases the number of individuals whose behavior is in turn affected. This indicates that middle-aged women may function as critical links in the path of resource flows between extended family members. Since exchanges often involve services, such as physical care for the very young or the very old, indirect effects upon consumption behavior may be considerable, and include changes in household task allocation, shopping patterns, eating habits, and other activities which reduce the role overload of the caregiver.

    P5 The level of perceived obligations between kin positively affect consumption interdependencies among extended family members. Thus, family consumption behavior will be more affected by exchanges with family members from the family of origin than by exchanges with more distant family members. P6 Resources within a kinship network will tend to flow between links in which at least one female is present and will affect more individuals as role complexity increases; therefore, consumption interdependencies will be greater among households related by a family tie involving at least one mature female linkage.

    Two trends in American society illustrate how a crisis in one family can affect the resources and consumption behavior of other families within kinship structure: 1 the increasing number of single parent families and 2 the aging population. About two-thirds of all divorces involve children McLanahan and Garfinkle The majority of mothers retain custody of their children; however, only 60 percent of divorced mothers receive a child support award Teachman , while only approximately 44 percent of these receive the agreed-upon amount U. Bureau of the Census Because of the way the welfare system works, some mothers, particularly in black urban areas where male employment opportunities are limited, may avoid marriage all together Stack Consequently, 36 percent of households headed by single parents live at or below the poverty level U.

    Many single mothers turn to their kin, whose consumption is in turn affected in a variety of ways as they rally to help.

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    Crossman and Edmondson found that 77 percent of divorced respondents reported receiving some form of assistance from parents, siblings, extended kin, and children following marital dissolution. Gerstel found that approximately two-thirds of divorced respondents reported borrowing money from at least one relative, and that divorced mothers tended to rely upon kin for help with household chores.

    Divorce has also been linked to the return of young adults, such as single mothers, to the parental home Clemens and Axelson These multigenerational households experience blurred stages of the family life cycle which affect consumption behavior, such as when grandparents help with childcare or act as surrogate parents. In families where the grandmothers are still working, research indicates that adults juggle schedules so that both mother and daughter may work Pressler In their study, however, Crossman and Edmondson note that C in every instance C divorced mothers received nothing from the father's kin, implying that one of the effects of divorce is to destabilize and truncate the kinship structure, usually on the father's side.

    Another family crisis which activates kinship networks is the long-term care for the elderly. Approximately 80 percent of care for the elderly is provided by relatives Benjamin It is well documented that women wives and daughters do most of the work e. Finley In most cases they do so without the benefit of public or private support; Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for most home healthcare services, private services are almost non-existent, and entry into three-quarters of all nursing homes is clogged by long waiting lists Archbold ; Vladeck Providing care for an elderly parent can be an enormous psychological and physical burden.

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    Its impact upon family consumption behavior can be substantial, and it can affect multiple families. It usually occurs when the caregiver is in middle age or early old age Archbold Unlike childbirth, it cannot be planned for. Unlike childcare, it does not get easier. And it lasts a long time C a British study cited by Abel found that about one-half of caregivers had provided care for at least five years, while almost one-quarter had provided care for more than ten years.

    In addition to the substantial drain on family resources, the duration of care can lead to severe role overload and chronic stress, which may lead to significant changes in family consumption behavior C or even the breakup of the family. Kinship assistance to single parents and the aged are merely two examples of why life status changes cannot be studied from the sole perspective of the nuclear family. Critical life status events such as birth, the establishment of an independent household, marriage, unemployment, illness, and death tend to activate kinship exchange behavior among extended family members, affecting both families receiving assistance and families providing it.

    Research on kinship family structures offers three important contributions to consumer research which are overlooked by traditional approaches to family consumption behavior. First, the family is viewed as a social unit embedded within the context of the kinship structure rather than as an isolated entity, thus reintegrating the family with its significant social setting. In a 43rd and key advertising, Bill Bolton provides the such articles of human control and server experiments, addressing actions of the latest flashes, symptoms and techniques. Unlike the learning of s in this description, Please a first personal fly of such partners is used.

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