Families pass through a series of stages that change them over time. This process historically has been called the family life cycle (FLC). The concept may need to be changed to household life cycle (HLC) or consumer life cycle (CLC) in the future to reflect changes in society. However, we will use the term FLC to show how the life cycle affects consumer behavior.

Family Life Cycle Characteristics

The traditional FLC describes family patterns as consumers marry, have children, leave home, lose a spouse, and retire. But consumers don’t necessarily have to pass through all these stages-thy can skip multiple stages

Stages in Family Life Cycle

Young Singles

Young singles may live alone, with their nuclear families, or with friends, or they may co-habitate with partners in this stage. Although earnings tend to be relatively low, these consumers usually don’t have many financial obligations and don’t feel the need to save for their futures or retirement. Many of them find themselves spending as much as they make on cars, furnishings for first residences away from home, fashions, recreation, alcoholic beverages, food away from home, vacations, and other products.

Newly Married Couples

Newly married couples without children are usually better off financially than they were when they were single, since they often have two incomes available to spend on one household. These families tend to spend a substantial amount of their incomes on cars, clothing, vacations, and other leisure activities. They also have the highest purchase rate and highest average purchases of durable good (particularly furniture and appliances) and appear to be more susceptible to advertising.

Full Nest I

With the arrival of the first child, parents begin to change their roles in the family, and decide if one parent will stay to care for the child or if they will both work and buy daycare services. In this stage, families are likely to move into their first home; purchases furniture and furnishings for the child; and purchase new items such as baby food, toys, sleds, and skates. These requirements reduce families’ ability to save, and the husband and wife are often dissatisfied with their financial position.

Full Nest II

In this stage, the youngest child has reached school age, the employed spouse’s income has improved. Consequently, the family’s financial position usually improves, but the family finds itself consuming more and in larger quantities Consumption patterns continue to be heavily influenced by the children, since the family tends to buy large-sized packages of food and cleaning suppliers, bicycles, music lessons, clothing, sports equipment, and a computer.

Full Nest III

As the family grows older and parents enter their min-40s, their financial position usually continues to improve because the primary wage earner’s income rises, the second wage earner is receiving a higher salary, and the children earn from occasional and part-time employment. The family typically replaces some worn pieces of furniture, buys some luxury appliances, and spends money on education. Families also spend more on computers in this stage, buying additional PCs for their older children. Depending on where children go to college and how many are seeking higher education, the financial position of the family may be tighter than other instances.

Married, No Kids

Couples who marry and do not have children are likely to have more disposable income to spend on charities, travel, and entertainment than others in their age range. Not only do they have fewer expenses, these couples are more likely to be dual-wage earners, making it easier for them to retire earlier if they save appropriately.

Older Singles

Single, age 40 or older, may be single again (ending married status because of divorce or death of a spouse), or never married (because they prefer to live  independently or because they co-habitate with partners), either group of whichmay or may not have children living in the household. This group now has more available income to spend on travel and leisure but feels the pressure to save for the future, since there is no second income on which to rely as they get older.

Empty Nest I

At this stage, the family is most satisfied with its financial position. The children have left home and are financially independent allowing the family to save more. In this stage discretionary income is spent on what the couple wants rather  than on what the children need. Therefore, they spend on home improvements,luxury items, vacations, sports utility vehicles, food away from home, travel, and product for their grand children.

Empty Nest II

But this time, the income earners have retired, usually resulting in a reduction in income and disposable income. Expenditures become health oriented, centering on such items as medical appliances and health, and medicines. But many of these families continue to be active and in good health, allowing them to spend time traveling, exercising, and volunteering. Many continue working part time to supplement their retirement and keep them socially involved.

Solitary Survivor

Solitary survivors be either employed or not employed. If the surviving spouse has worked outside the home in the past, he or she usually continues employment or goes back to work to live on earned income (rather than saving) and remain socially active. Expenditures for clothing and food usually decline in this stage, with income spent on health care, sickness care, travel entertainment, and services.. Those who are not employed are often on fixed incomes and may move in with friends to share housing expenses and companionship, and some may choose to remarry.

Retired Solitary Survivor

Retired solitary survivors follow the same general consumption patterns as solitary survivors; however, their income may not be as high. Depending on how much they have been able to save throughout their lifetimes, they can afford to buy a wide range of products. These individuals have special needs for attention, affection, and security based on their lifestyle choices. Marketers use the descriptions of these FLC stages when analyzing marketing and communication strategies for products and services, but they often add additional information about consumer markets to analyze their needs, identify

niches, and develop consumer-specific marketing strategies. A look at these roles provides further insight into how family members act in their various consumption-related roles:

1. Influencers: Those family members who provide information and advice and thus influence the purchase. The housewife tells her family about the new eatery that has opened in the neighborhood and her favorable description about it influences her husband and teenaged children.

2. Gatekeepers: Those family members who control the flow of information about a product/service thus influencing the decisions of other family members. The teenaged son who wants a racing bicycle, may withhold from his father much of the relevant information on all brands except the one that he fancies, thereby influencing his father’s decision in favour of his preferred brand.

3. Deciders: Family members who have the power to unilaterally or jointly decide whether or not to buy a product or service. The husband and wife may jointly decide about the purchase of a new refrigerator.

4. Buyers: Those family members who actually buy a particular product or service. A housewife may be the person who actually buys all the foodstuffs, rations and toiletries, which are consumed by all the family members.

5. Preparers: Those family members who transform or prepare the product into the form in which it is actually consumed. The housewife may prepare the family meal using raw vegetables, lentils, spices, oil and other ingredients.

6. Users: Those family members who use or consume a particular product or service. All family members may use the car, watch the television, and listen to the stereo music system

7. Maintainers: Family member(s) who service or repair the product so that it will provide continued satisfaction.

8. Disposers: Family member(s) who initiate or carry out the disposal or discontinuation of a particular product or service.

Influencing Spouses and Resolving Consumer Conflicts

When making consumer decisions, husbands and wives commonly attempt to influence each other to arrive at what they feel to be the best outcome. Six influence strategies for resolving husband/wife consumption-related conflicts have been identified:

??Expert: At attempt by a spouse to use his or her superior information about decision alternatives to influence the other spouse.

??Legitimacy: An attempt by a spouse to influence the other spouse on the basis of position in the household.

??Bargaining: An attempt by a spouse to secure influence now that will be exchanged with the other spouse at some future date.

??Reward: An attempt by a spouse to influence the behaviour of the other spouse by offering a reward.

??Emotional: An attempt by spouse to use an emotion-laden reaction to influence the other spouse’s behaviour.

??Impression: Any persuasive attempts by one spouse to influence the behaviour of the other.

These influence strategies tend to be used by either husbands or wives when they find themselves in disagreement or in conflict with the other spouse regarding specific consumer decision. For instance, we all have experienced occasions on which different restaurants to visit, see different movies, or go on a different type of family vacation. These are only a few examples of the almost endless possibilities of potential family consumption conflicts that might need to be resolved.


As any parent knows, young children attempt to influence family decisions as soon as they possess the basic communication skills needed to interact with other family members (“Buy me a cookie”, “I want a Barbie doll”, “Let’s eat at McDonald’s”.). Older children are likely to participate more directly in family consumption activities. In a study of children aged 6 to 14, more than half indicated that they influenced family purchase decisions, such as choice of vacations, stereo equipment, and home computers. Other research indicates that children play relatively important roles when it comes to initiating interest in a new computer and in the actual purchase decision. The parent-child relationship, as it relates to consumer behaviour, can be viewed as an influence versus yield situation. Specifically, children attempt to influence their parents to make a purchase (to yield). In observing shoppers in a supermarket, it is quite evident that children attempt to influence their parents to make purchases of special interest (e.g., laundry detergents) for which they see ads on TV.

Teenagers and Post teens

A significant number of teenagers have discretionary spending in terms of spending patterns. High school students (those in grades 7 through 12) are most interested in sports and fitness. Boys between the ages of 16 and 19 spend most of their money on movies, dating, entertainment, vehicle expenses, and clothing, while girls of that age spend most of their money on clothing, cosmetics, and fragrances. The teen market can be segmented in terms of lifestyle groups. Figure below presents a four-category segmentation schema of the teenage market. Such segmentation framework has value for marketers who wish to focus their marketing efforts on a particular subgroup of teens.


Name Key Characteristics

1. Socially driven.

2. Versatile Participant

3. Passive Introverts

4. Sports Oriented

Primarily female; active and extroverted. They are optimistic and plan to attend College. Slightly more females than males: responsible teens, but less optimistic and less likely to plan to attend college than the Social Driven. They are comfortable in social and solitary situations. Slightly more males than females: withdrawn, self-conscious, and the least comfortable in social situations. They are less optimistic about, the future, and spend the least. Primarily males: outgoing, active, and greatly interested in participating in and watching sports. Sports influence their self-image and what they buy.

Lifestyle segmentation of the teen market Family marketing

Family marketing focuses on the relationships between family members based on the roles they assume, including the relationship between purchaser and family consumer and between purchaser and purchase decision maker. Family marketing identifies scenarios where some purchase might have more than one decision maker, whereas some have more than one consumer. The family marketing model, as see in Figure 3.1, represents nine cells describing various purchaser-consumer relationships. Depending on where in the matrix various products fall, marketers can advertise and position products differently

according to their  purchaser-consumer relationships. The family purchase decision-making process can be complex, but answering the following questions helps identify different purchaser-consumer relationships.

 The Family Marketing Model

Although these answers may not identify all essential relationships marketers should consider, they do identify a family marketing plan, which creates a relationship between individuals and products based on the role each individual has in the influence or purchase of products. In the restaurant industry, the trend has been to focus on marketing to the family as a single unit. Admittedly, the appeal to families arose from the restaurant industry’s desire to grow sales and profits.

R.yuvarani, M.phil Scholar,
Department of Commerce,
Periyar University, Salem-11