Date of Award

8-2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication

Major Professor

John E. Haley

Committee Members

Ronald E. Taylor, Sally J. McMillan, Ann E. Fairhurst

Abstract

This qualitative study explored the roles of the upbringing environments and mass-mediated sources in the socialization of compulsive buyers. Its purpose was to find the answers to these research questions: what does it mean to be a compulsive buyer; what kind of role does family play in the consumer socialization of compulsive buyers; what kind of role does mass media and advertising play in the consumer socialization of compulsive buyers? To answer these questions, in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 women respondents who were identified as compulsive buyers and who fit into one of four categories: the Provider, the Striver, the Abused, and the Neglected. Findings of this study showed that regardless of what type of compulsive buyer they are, all informants, because of their upbringing, generally have low self-esteem and feel as if they are not good enough in their own right as a human being. Compulsive buying is used primarily as a means to temporarily escape from, as well as to substitute for, this sense of inadequacy. There was a universal belief among these women that having plenty of material things, being successful and/or socially visible are the prerequisites for being happy. This belief is the meaning they have constructed from their interactions with other people as well as from their exposure to mass media and advertising.

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