Journal of Consumer Studies and Home Economics ( 1 995) 19,3548

Exploring factors influencing addictive buying behaviour in the U.S.A.
KWANGHEE PARK* AND RICHARD HESLINt *Department of Clothing & Textiles, Keimyung University, Korea tDepartment of Social Psychology,Purdue University, U.S.A.
This study proposes two models of addictive buying behaviour. Thefirst model assumes that childhood experiences of parental discord influence depression and low self-esteem which, in turn, increase addictive buying behaviour in adulthood. The data were obtained from questionnaires completed by 149 subjects (college students, Chicago residents, and members of Debtors Anonymous). Testing the first model indicates that parental discord is indeed positively related to depression and addictive buying, and that depression is related negatively to self-esteem and positively to addictive buying. The second model indicates that addictive buying is positively related to depression and low self-esteem.

Introduction
Why do people engage in addictive buying? Previous surveys have found that addictive buyers report that they shop to suppress or lessen negative feelings or to seek immediate gratification.’q2 short, addictive buyers may use buying as escape behaviour to avoid In their real problems. Addictive buying may be related to the shopping motives people have. For example, Tauber describes 1 1 motives to shop (including physical activity, sensory stimulation, and impulse shopping). Among these motives, self-gratification seems to be the one most closely related to addictive buying. When motivated by self-gratification, people ‘buy something nice for themselves when they are depre~sed’.~ other words, they ‘alleviate In depression simply by spending money on themselves’. Addictive buying is also explained by socio-psychological motive^.^ Buying motives can be seen as falling along a continuum between socio-psychological and operational motivation. At the ‘operational buying motives’ end of the continuum, people expect satisfaction from the product’s performance. At the ‘socio-psychological motive’ end of the continuum, people obtain satisfaction from psychological factors (e.g., attention from salespeople, feelings of status or power) through the buying activity itself. Addictive buying behaviour seems to be explainable in terms of Udell’s socio-psychological motive. That is, addictive buyers are assumed to buy products in order to get psychological satisfaction rather than to get satisfaction from the product’s performance. Addictive buying may be more widespread than is commonly imagined. According Correspondence:Kwanghee Park, Department of Clothing & Textiles,Keimyung University, 2 139 Daemyung-Dong.Daegu 705-701, Korea.

35

Factors influencing addictive buying behaviour

to some authors, about 6 to 10% of the American population spend addictively.s-6 According to Arthur, over 15 million Americans need help to cope with their addictive buying tendencies, showing that it is not restricted to a small portion of ~ o c i e t yBecause .~ addictive buying is not limited to a few people and because it can cause severe problems in individuals and households (e.g. psychological abuse, bankruptcies), it would be beneficial to examine the nomological network of correlates and addictive buying behaviour. The purpose of this study is to compare two models of addictive buying. One approach proposes that childhood experiences of parental discord may influence increased depression and lowered self-esteem which, in turn, increase addictive buying behaviour in adulthood. The other approach examines the possibility that addictive buying may be related to depressiodlow self-esteem, but that the direction of causality may well be from the buying to the feeling rather than vice versa.

Literature review
Addictive buying
Valence, d’Astous and Fortier defined addictive buying as ‘an incontrollable (sic) urge to buy which is impelled by a psychological tension arising from internal factors and which is accompanied by a feeling of relief along with the frustration caused by the addictive nature of the behaviour’.’ Faber and O’Guinn described addictive buyers as ‘people who are impulsively driven to consume, cannot control this behaviour, and seem to buy in order to escape from other problems9 They assume that people buy things in order to relieve negative feelings and that the positive consequences of purchasing (e.g. relief of negative feelings) result in the development of addictive buying behaviour. Once addictive buying behaviour has developed, it is very difficult to control. What is the relationship between addictive buying and addictive behaviour? In general, people engage in addictive behaviour, such as drinking alcohol or running, because ( 1) it relieves negative feelings such as depression, anxiety, tension, boredom, inferiority or emptiness, and (2) it increases positive feelings such as pleasure, excitement, enhanced self-esteem, security or power.” Donovan pointed out some common features across addictive behaviours.” First, the addictive behaviour occurs in order to change one’s mood and sensation. Second, ‘negative mood’, such as unhappiness, anxiety or depression, motivates an addict to engage in the addictive behaviour. Third, the addictive behaviour has been reinforced in the past through a temporary, positive experience each time the behaviour pattern is followed. These commonalities are also observed in addictive buying behaviour. 139~’2~13 It is commonly accepted that addiction is determined by multiple ~ a r i a b 1 e s . l ~ ~ ” ~ ~ Determinants of addiction which were described in these studies were too general (e.g. ‘cultural’, ‘psychological’and ‘biological’variables). However, Graham and Ekdahl cited evidence that addictive behaviour, such as alcohol, tobacco, food and caffeine abuse, is influenced by some specific lifestyle and experience variables. For example, childhood experience (poor parenting, parental loss, or separation), unmarried status (divorced or

36

K.Park and R. Heslin

separated), personality (low self-esteem, anxiety or depression), and a stressful life were all found to be related to addictive behaviour. In the present study, one assumption investigated is that depression and low self-esteem resulting from parental discord are determinants of addictive buying.

Explanation of a proposed model of addictive buying
Previous studies have investigated the direct relationships between addictive buying and various explanatory variables (e.g. self-esteem, materialism and In the present study, the indirect effects as well as direct effects of three specific variables (parents’ marital happiness, depression, and self-esteem) on addictive buying will be exarnined in order to propose a model of the development of addictive buying (see Fig. 1). Parental discord or conflict make children feel insecure and unloved. Unhappy parents are less likely to show interest in the activities of their children, and therefore less likely to supply a model for developing self-worth and self-control. If children do not get the necessary love and support from their parents, they will be depressed and have low self-esteem. Furthermore, they will seek ways to reduce these negative feelings through immediate gratification. One quick and easy way is buying. Attention from salespeople and buying products provide people with good feelings about themselves. This assumption is supported by DiGiulio and Janosik who suggest that budgeting and debt management are not the ultimate solutions to overspending because people spend money to increase self-esteem or to overcome depression. l9 The relationship between parents’ marital happiness and addictive buying has not been investigated to date, but one study has examined the relationship between parental divorce and addictive buying.6 Adolescents from divorced families were shown to have greater tendencies to addictive buying than those from intact families. Jacob stated that a feeling of inadequacy and rejection by parents in childhood and adolescence might lead on to

Gender

Happiness

Path 3

Path 6

Path 1

(-)

Fig. 1. Addictive buying model 1. High gender score = female.

31

Factors influencing addictive buying behaviour

engagement in addictive beha~i0ur.l~ Based on these findings and nonempirical writings, it is proposed that parents’ marital unhappiness is a potential influence on the development of addictive buying (Path 1 in Figs 1 and 2). In a nonempirical paper, Tennant argued that parental conflict may contribute to low self-esteem, depression or delinquent behaviour of offspring.” Favretto investigated the effect of family environment on depression and found that family conflict had a partial effect on depression in college students?’ Thus, there seems to exist the possibility that parental discord may cause depression that endures (Path 2 in Figs 1 and 2). Low self-esteem as a result of parental discord was also investigated. Long investigated the effects of family structure (divorced versus married) and parental discord (happy marriage versus unhappy marriage) on self-esteem of the offspring and found that self-esteem scores of children were positively related to the happiness of their parents2* This finding was supported by other studies showing that parental discord had an effect on the development of low s e l f - e ~ t e e m ? ~ ’ ~ ~ on these findings, parents’ marital Based unhappiness is assumed to influence the development of low self-esteem (Path 3 in Figs 1 and 2). Several studies have shown that depression and self-esteem are negatively correlated.25*26 Although none of these studies has examined what is the cause or the effect of the relationship between low self-esteem and depression, it is not unreasonable to assume that low self-esteem influences the increase of depression and that depression lowers self-esteem (Path 4 in Fig. 1 and Path 6 in Fig. 2). However, estimating the reciprocal relationship between self-esteem and depression in the addictive buying model results in biased parameter estimations and identification problem with the use of LISREL (Linear Structural Relations). The reasons are found in Hayduk’s d i s c ~ s s i o n :‘To estimate reciprocal effects, the symmetry of the reciprocal ~~ relationship should be broken by including variables thought to cause one or the other, but not both, of the reciprocally related variables.’ Unless the model includes variables mentioned above, the parameter estimates are biased. It is impossible ‘to estimate more coefficients (unknowns) than there are data covariances/variances (knowns)’, referred to as an identification pr~blem.~’ Because reciprocal effects often result in identification problems, unidirectional effect, rather than reciprocal effects, will be estimated and the direction of effect will be decided according to the fitness of model into the data. In other words, the direction which increases the fitness of model will be chosen. In addition, gender is included in the model in order to assess its effect on addictive buying. Hirshman states that addictive buyers spend money to relieve negative feelings, such as depression.2 Studies which have examined the relationship between depression and addictive buying behaviour through interviews suggested that addictive buyers were prone to overcome depression through purchasing. ‘s12q28Therefore, depression is assumed to have an effect on the development of addictive buying (Path 5 in Fig. 1). Most of addictive buying research demonstrated that addictive buyers had lower self-esteem than general consumers although, of course, causality could be in the opposite

38

K. Park and R. Heslin

(-)
)

>
Addictive Buying
(-) Path 5

Depression

<-

Path 1

Path 6 ( - )

>

Self Esteem

directi~n.~*’~’~’ However, in the developmental model, low self-esteem is assumed to influence the development of addictive buying (Path 6 in Fig. l), rather than vice versa. Although these studies do not provide enough evidence to infer a relationship between parents’ marital happiness and psychological development of offspring, it is not unreasonable to assume that parental discord or conflict decreases the likelihood of healthy relationships being built between parent and offspring and increases the likelihood of emotional problems forming in offspring. In the present study, the first hypothesis proposes that the links between parents’ marital happiness, self-esteem, depression, and addictive buying scores can be described as in model 1 (Fig. 1). However, there is another way to describe the relationship between parents’ marital happiness, self-esteem, depression, and addictive buying. Paths 1, 2, 3 and 6 in Fig. 2 are explained by the studies mentioned previously for identifying Paths 1, 2 , 3 and 4 in Fig. 1. Although there are not enough empirical studies to support Paths 4 and 5, they are included, based on the studies demonstrating that addictive buyers feel guilty, depressed, or fearful after purchasing?93o The second hypothesis proposes that the relationship between parents’ marital happiness, self-esteem, depression, and addictive buying scores can be described as in model 2 (Fig. 2). Although there are not enough empirical studies to support this model (model 2), it is valuable to test it in order to supplement the first model, which is not able to explain the effects of addictive buying on the Occurrence of depression and low selfesteem.

Procedure
Selection of the sample
The sample consisted of three groups: general consumers living in Chicago, members of Debtor Anonymous in Chicago, and college students enrolled in consumer sciences and

39

Factors influencingaddictivebuying behaviour

retailing course at Purdue University. Because of difficulties in identifying addictive buyers and obtaining their cooperation, probability sampling was not used. It was expected that both general consumers and students would provide a range of people from various family environments, and with various levels of depression, self-esteem, and addictive buying behaviour. It was assumed that people who were seeking help for their financial problems (i.e. Debtor Anonymous members) were more likely to be addictive buyers than non-members. DiGiulio and Janosik support this assumption by suggesting that some debtors spend money for reasons such as increasing their feelings of self-esteem, power and prestige, or to get over depression.” Furthermore, the purpose of this study was not to examine the differences between addictive buyers and general consumers but to investigate the relationships between addictive buying tendency and explanatory variables such as parental discord, self-esteem, and depression. In addition, using only addictive buyers who seek help from psychiatrists, counsellors, or self-help groups may have distorted the results of the study because they may be different from addictive buyers who do not seek help. Therefore, for this study, it was reasonable to examine general consumers as well as people who were thought likely to show addictive buying tendencies.

The measures used
Addictive buying was assessed with the Compulsive Buying Scales developed by Valence et al. and Faber and O’G~inn.’.~’ Parental discord was measured by a question developed specifically for the present study that asked the degree of parents’ marital happiness. The scale to measure depression was developed for the present study based on the Multiple Affective Adjective Check List.32 Self-esteem was measured with the ten-item scale developed by R ~ s e n b e r g . ~ ~

Analysis of data
analyses were used to test hypotheses 1 (model 1) and 2 (model 2) because of their capability of testing ‘the validity and adequacy of the model’ such as ‘the assessment of the fit and the detection of lack of fit of the To test hypothesis 1 (model 1) and hypothesis 2 (model 2), the maximum likelihood parameter estimates, f-values, and standard errors were calculated. To indicate how well the model fits the observed data, chi-square statistics, goodness of fit index, and root mean square residual statistics were examined.
LISREL (linear structural relations)

Results
Sample description
From the 660 distributed questionnaires, 149 returned questionnaires were used for the study. Table 1 lists the frequencies of demographic characteristics of the sample. Sixty per cent of the respondents were women. Eighty-five per cent of respondents were under

40

K. Park and R. Heslin

Table 1. Demographic characteristics and experiences of loss

Frequency (%) Gender: Income: Male Female Under $10,000 $10,000 to $19,999 $20,000 to $29,999 $30,000 to $39,999 $40,000 to $49,999 $50,000 to $59,999 $60,000 to $69,999 $70,000 to $79,999 $80,000 or above Never married Separated Divorced Widowed Married

89 (40) 60 (60)
12 (8) 15 (11) 18 (12)

14 (10)
15 (11)

12 (8) 11 (8) 10 (7) 36 (25)
102 (69) 4 (3) 8 (5) 3 (2) 31 (21) 34 (23) 68 (46) 24 (16) 12 (8) 7 (4) 4 (3)

Marital status:

Age:

15-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 Over 60

the age of 39 and 70% were single, probably because 60%of respondents were students. The income level of $80,000 or above seems to be overrepresented. This may be explained by the fact that family income, rather than respondent income, was asked. Also, family incomes of students, who made up 60%of the sample, may be higher than the average income. To determine whether demographic characteristics (e.g. gender, marital status, age, income) influenced addictive buying, t-test, ANOVA, and correlation analyses were used. The result showed that women have greater tendencies toward addictive buying than men. The mean addictive buying score for women was 54 and for men 49 ( t = 2.08, P = 0.04). This result is consistent with previous findings.698.' 3,35,36

41

Factors influencing addictive buying behaviour

Hypothesis testing
Hypothesis 1. The relations between parents’ marital happiness, self-esteem, depression, and addictive buying scores are described in model 1 (Fig. 1). The path between depression and addictive buying was deleted because of multicollinearity (see Fig. 3): there were moderate intercorrelations between self-esteem, depression, and addictive buying. Also, the partial correlation coefficient between addictive buying and depression was 0.0014 when the effect of self-esteem on addictive buying and depression was controlled.

-1.304

-1.698

4*929*

L
Addictive Buy i ng

-1*374*

Fig. 3. Model Iwith path coefficients. *Significantat P c 0.05. High gender score = female.

A LISREL analysis was used to test the first hypothesis. Three measures of the overall fit of the model to the data are presented in Table 2. Small values of chi-square relative to the degrees of freedom indicate that the model predicts the covariance matrix well. The adjusted goodness of fit index is ‘the relative amount of variances and covariances jointly accounted for by the model and should be close to 1.0 for a good fit’.37 The root mean square residual indicates ‘the average of the residual variances and covariances should be close to zero’.37 All three measures indicate a very good fit to the observed data.
Table 2. Goodness of fit measures for model 1

Goodness of fit measure Chi-square/d.f. Adjusted goodness to fit Root mean squares

Value
0.08
0.99
0.18

42

K.Park and R. Heslin

Figure 3 shows that parents’ marital happiness is negatively related to depression. In other words, a one score increase in parents’ marital happiness is expected to lead to a decrease of 0.802 score in depression. Depression is negatively related to self-esteem. Self-esteem is negatively related to addictive buying. Gender is related to addictive buying, which means that women have greater tendencies toward addictive buying than men. Table 3 presents direct and indirect effects in the addictive buying model 1. Parents’ marital happiness has an indirect effect on self-esteem [0.959 (see Table 3) = -0.802 x -1.195 (see Fig. 3)]. Parents’ marital happiness and depression have indirect effects on addictive buying. These results confirm the findings of other studies that suggest that addictive buying is related to self-esteem, depression, and gender.698*’2*29 Furthermore, the results support the assumption that parents’ marital happiness influences the development of negative feelings of offspring.
Hypothesis 2. The relations between parents’ marital happiness, self-esteem, depression, and addictive buying scores are described in model 2 (Fig. 2). The path between gender and self-esteem was deleted because of an identification problem. In other words, it is impossible to measure the fitness of a model when the number of estimated coefficients is more than the number of data covariances/variances. The path between gender and self-esteem was chosen to be deleted because the effect of gender on self-esteem was negligible (see Fig. 4).

Table 3. Effects of variables in addictive buying model I

Dependent variable

Predetermined variables

Total effect

Direct effect

Indirect effect

Depression Self-esteem

Addictive buying

Gender PMH Gender PMH Depression Gender PMH Depression Self-esteem

-1’304 -0.802* -0.139 0.973* -1 .I 95* 5.121* -0.0 17 1642* -1.374*

-1.304 -0.802* -1‘698 0.014
-1.195*

4.93* 1.329 0 - I .374*

0 0 1.559 0.959* 0 0.191 -1.336* 1&2* 0

* Significant at P < 0.05. PMH = Parents’ marital happiness.
43

Factors influencing addictive buying behaviour

>
) Addictive 0*102*

Depression

< -

-0.017

Buying.

-0.2178

>

Self Esteem

Parents’ Marital Happiness

Fig. 4. Model 2 with path coefficients. *Significantat P c 0.05. High gender score = female.

a b l e 4. Goodness of fit measures for Model 2
Goodness of fit measure

Value

Chi-qu4d.f. Adjusted goodness of fit Root mean squares

0.03 0.99 0 01 .

A LISREL analysis was used to test the second hypothesis. Three measures of the overall fit of the model to the data are presented in Table 4. All three measures indicate a very good fit to the observed data. Figure 4 presents a negative relationship between parents’ marital happiness and depression. Addictive buying is positively related to depression and negatively to selfesteem. In other words, a one score increase in addictive buying is expected to lead to a increase of 0.102 score in depression and a decrease of 0.217 score in self-esteem. Depression is negatively related to self-esteem. Gender is related to addictive buying, which means that women have greater tendencies toward addictive buying than men. Table 5 presents direct and indirect effects in the addictive buying model 2. Gender has a direct effect on depressim, which indicates that men are more likely to be depressed than women. However, the total effect (sum of direct and indirect effects) of gender on depression is not significant. Although parents’ marital happiness has no direct effect on self-esteem, the total effect is significant.
I

4 4

K.Park and R Heslii .

Table 5. Effects of variables in addictive buying model 2

Dependent variable

Predetermined variables

Total effect

Direct effect

Indirect effect

Addictive buying Depression

Self-esteem

Gender PMH Gender PMH Addictive buying Gender PMH Addictive buying Depression

-0.801*

5.149* -0.017 -1.293

0.102* -0.102 0.979* -0.304* -0.85 1*

5.149* -0.017 -1.817* -0.799* 0.102* -0.082 0.294 -0.217* -0.85 1*

0 0 0.524 -0.002 0 -0.02 0.685 -0.087 0

* Significant at P c 0.05.
PMH = Parents' marital happiness,

Further analyses of direction o causaliry f
Four questions were asked to investigate which direction of causality is better for explaining effect and addictive buying behaviour. The results indicate that all mean scores are higher than the middle scores (3.5) (see Table 6). In other words, respondents rated

Table 6. Comparing responses to four questions about behaviour and feeling
Mean a1 bl a2 b2 Likelihood that depression causes overbuying (Q13a) Likelihood that overbuying causes depression (Q13b) Likelihood that low self-esteem causes overbuying (Q14a) Likelihood that overbuying causes low self-esteem (Q14b) 4.54 -3.94* 5.25 4.03 -2.59* 453 t-value

r-value produced by a paired (questions a and b) t-test. * significant at P < 0.05. Questions al, bl, a2 and b2: 7-point Likert-type scale.

45

Factors influencing addictive buying behaviour

the likelihood that overbuying causes feelings of depression and low self-esteem and that feelings of depression and low self-esteem cause overbuying higher than the middle scores. These findings are not overwhelmingly strong but they do point to the likelihood that people overbuy in order to lessen depression and low self-esteem and that people are depressed and have low self-esteem because of their overbuying. The results also indicate that the likelihood of buying a lot causing feelings of depression and low self-esteem is significantly higher than the likelihood of feelings of depression and low self-esteem causing a need to buy a lot.

Discussion
The present study examined the relationships between parents' marital happiness, selfesteem, depression, and addictive buying. Two models were proposed to describe these relationships. The first model explains the effects of depression and low self-esteem (which are hypothesized to be influenced by parental discord) on addictive buying. The second model explains the effects of addictive buying on the occurrences of depression and low self-esteem. The f i s t model does not test, but can be interpreted in terms of Bowlby's attachment theory.38 Parental conflict contributes to the breaking of a child's affection bonds with parents, decreases the likelihood of the child being provided with security, comfort and confidence, and increases the likelihood of children developing depression and low self-esteem. These results are consistent with previous findings that indicate parental conflict impacts the development of depression and low self-esteem of offspring?'*39 Therefore, parental conflict or discord may contribute to the development of psychological problems which make a person more vulnerable to developing addictive behaviours, buying addiction being one of these. The findings of the present study also show that depression and low self-esteem are related to addictive buying behaviour. Respondents who were depressed or had low self-esteem had greater tendencies toward addictive buying behaviours. This may suggest that people engage in addictive buying in order to lessen their negative feelings and to generate positive feelings about themselves. Furthermore, this may indicate that addictive buying shares common causes with other addictive behaviour because, as Das pointed out, people engage in addictive behaviour to relieve negative feelings and to increase positive feelings." The second model indicates that addictive buying is related to depression and low self-esteem, and suggests that people feel depressed or have low self-esteem because they are addictive shoppers.

Implications
The findings of the present study can be interpreted to support the notion that parental discord creates psychological stress in childhood that can lead to addictive behaviour in adulthood. These findings give addictive buyers, their families, counsellors, and beha-

46

K. Park and R. Heslin

viour researchers a slightly different perspective on addictive buying. First, addictive buyers should understand that the fundamental problem is not just overspending because the role of buying acts as a way to lessen negative feelings. Second, families and counsellors should help addictive buyers to find a healthy way to increase positive feelings, to reduce negative feelings, and to face their real problems rather than try to escape from them. Third, addictive buying researchers may use theories from addictive behaviour and extend their knowledge, since addictive buying shares common causes with other addictive behaviours.

References
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Factors influencing addictive buying behaviour

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