Unheard Consumers: A Resource Perspective on the Goal Pursuit of Families with Hearing Impaired Children

Alexander Henkel, Johannes Boegershausen, Robert Ciuchita, Gaby Odekerken-Schröder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Research Question The manner in which people pursue pivotal goals related to their life projects is an important topic in consumer behavior and social psychology. However, little is known about how marketplace interactions determine how consumers overcome challenges in central life projects, such as parenthood and raising children. For example, a diagnosis of a newborn's disability often contradicts anticipated visions and disrupts daily family life. Specifically, we have a limited understanding of the inherent dynamics in consumer goal pursuit over time that result from the interplay of resource endowments, marketplace interactions, and goal progress. We know even less about such processes as performed by collective consumers. Notwithstanding the importance of families as social spheres in daily consumption experiences, extant research rarely considers such complex collectives and their behavior. We examine the dynamics in goal pursuit of collective consumers: families with hearing impaired children. Our aim is to shed light on (1) how families define their goals after a shock to their life project of raising a healthy child, (2) what resources are important in order to reach these goals, and (3) how formal (e.g., medical service providers) and informal (e.g., other affected consumers) marketplace interactions shape consumers' resources and goal attainment. Method and Data Our data collection comprises semi-structured in-depth interviews with nine families with at least one hearing impaired child, respectively. We strived for variation in the sample of informants in terms of degrees of hearing impairment, therapy stage, structural and sociodemographic factors, and resource endowments. We continued interviewing families until the point of theoretical saturation, iterating back and forth between coding and interpreting the data, consulting existing theory, and additional data collection. Each interview comprised a verbal and a visual phase, during which informants were asked to sketch their collective goal progress over time as well as the interplay of marketplace interactions and resources that had significant impact on goal achievements. The average interview lasted 96 minutes. All interviews were recorded and transcribed, resulting in 199 single-spaced pages of text. Initially, each author read the transcripts individually; we adopted an idiographic approach, took notes about emerging themes (e.g., individual vs. collective well-being goals, marketplace interactions, resource dynamics, etc.), and interpreted the patterns within specific interviews. Subsequently, we moved to a more nomothetic approach, focusing on comparisons across interviews. Building on the emerging themes, we engaged in more axial coding procedures, iterating back and forth between our interpretations and the literature. Summary of Findings Our study investigates how consumers pursue crucial life themes and projects related to raising hearing impaired children. First, we show how families define their goals after a shock to their life project of raising a healthy child. Families apply a hierarchical structure of goal pursuit that is dynamic over time and guided by lower order goals that are defined by the current development stage of the child with respect to its hearing impairment. Second, our results point to the importance of resource endowments and shortages in guiding and steering consumer behavior. The rich narratives of our informants provide initial evidence that consumer resources drive consumer goal pursuit and attainment. Third, based on our findings we propose a reconceptualization of consumer resources that emphasizes the importance of the collective level. Failing to consider collective resources that shape consumers' lives and interactions is a potential pitfall for professional service providers and public policy. Fourth, we provide evidence of the role of marketplace interactions in enabling and hindering consumers' pursuit of crucial wellbeing goals. Our findings further hold important implications for consumers, public policy makers, and service providers on how to build and preserve crucial consumer resources. Key Contributions With this study of families as consumer collectives, we contribute to consumer research in at least three important ways. First, we contribute to work on consumer goals and emerging streams of research about collective consumers by focusing on consumers' use and configuration of marketplace interactions to enable the attainment of highorder goals. Second, we depict the importance of consumer resource dynamics in the pursuit of well-being and resulting implications for service providers and public policy makers: initial resource endowments shape consumer goal pursuit, and marketplace interactions influence consumers' resource stocks, which in turn shift their configurations and interactions with actors in the marketplace. Third, our study demonstrates the importance of considering not only individual, but also collective consumers (e.g., families). Our reconceptualization of consumer resources emphasizes that certain resources (e.g., structural, relational) primarily reside and are nurtured at the collective level. Failing to account for such complexities may lead to ineffective and inefficient service delivery and public policies. The latter should support consumer access to resources that will accommodate their dynamic resource requirements.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWinter Marketing Academic Conference 2016, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 26-28 February 2016 : What Happens in Marketing, Stays Digital: Rethinking Marketing in the Era of Unlimited Data
EditorsThorsten Hennig-Thurau, Charles F. Hofacker
Number of pages2
Publication date01.01.2016
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5108-2367-9
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2016
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings

Publication series

NameAMA Educators Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1054-0806


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Consumer behavior
  • Well-being
  • Marketplaces
  • collective consumers
  • consumer goals
  • consumer resource dynamics
  • family well-being
  • marketplace interactions


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