ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (8): 1250-1264.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.01250

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

For those who wash less dishes, please buy flowers: Couple’s contribution imbalance and family hedonic consumption

LI Shihao1, ZHANG Wenyue1, FU Guoqun2   

  1. 1Business School, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing 100029, China;
    2Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2023-11-19 Online:2024-08-15 Published:2024-06-05

Abstract: The variance in the magnitude of contribution to the completion of the joint task is regarded as contribution imbalance. It is common for couples to make unequal contributions to a wide variety of joint tasks in the household. However, previous studies have paid little attention to the impact of contribution imbalance on consumption behavior. The present research depicts that contribution imbalance in household tasks increases household hedonic consumption by integrating the dynamic equity perspective and the husband-wife dyadic model. We propose the underlying mechanism of this dyad: The one who contributes more, on the unfairly disadvantaged side, restores the sense of fairness by self-reward; while the one who contributes less, on the unfairly advantaged side, restores the sense of fairness by guilt and engaging in compensatory behaviors. Interestingly,all roads lead to Rome. The two different psychological mechanisms both enhance hedonic consumption in the family. Notably, this effect is mitigated when (1) the gender role concept is equal, (2) the partner's emotional support is high, and (3) the culture of gender equality is equal.
Our findings make several important contributions to family consumption behavior theory and practice. Firstly, the present research identifies how an important but overlooked factor in households (i.e., the contribution imbalance) shapes consumption choices. Previous research on contribution imbalance has focused primarily on the sociological or psychological field of family studies (e.g. marital quality, relationship satisfaction, well-being, relationship conflict, stress, depression). Significantly, we show that the perceived equity leads the dyad to increase their hedonic consumption as a way to bring the couple's relationship back to a state of equilibrium, thus realizing dynamic equity within the family as a whole.
Secondly, our work provides novel insights to extant theories on the role of hedonic consumption in consumers’ interpersonal relationships. We reveal that a family’s consumption behavior can also be used as a way to achieve dynamic equity and reach equilibrium within the system, i.e., after a partner’s sense of inequity in family tasks has arisen, the partner can compensate for and restore the sense of fairness through the corresponding purchasing behaviors, which is an essential theoretical contribution on understanding systemic equilibrium in family life and how couples can achieve dynamic equity. Our results pave the way for future research on the role of consumption that may restore equity and maintain intimacy.
Thirdly, our findings contribute to the broader literature on perceived equity or fairness in the context of dyadic consumer-consumer. Existing research has focused on the perceived fairness between consumers and merchants. In contrast, our findings establish consumption as a tool that can help the dyad restore equity and reveal the underlying mechanism of each individual. We explore three boundary conditions: gender role concept, partner’s emotional support, and culture of gender equality, which reinforce the understanding of equity-related theories.
In terms of managerial implications, our study responds to the social problem of the wide gap between men and women in the family sphere. According to our findings, marketing campaigns targeting family consumption need to take into account the mutual influence of both partner sides, not just the individual. For example, it is more effective to emphasize the hedonic attributes of a product for couples whose division of labor patterns do not conform to gender norms (e.g., breadwinning men and homemaking women, stay-at-home moms) compared to couples whose division of labor patterns conform to gender norms (e.g., breadwinning women and homemaking men, babysitting daddies). Thus, firms or marketers can then decide whether to push hedonic or utilitarian products to consumers, emphasizing the hedonistic or utilitarian attributes of the product, by observing or capturing whether consumers’ purchasing or usage behaviors conform to gender norms.

Key words: hedonic consumption, family division of labor, family consumption decision-making, perceived equity

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