'Consuming children' : a sociological analysis of children's relationship with contemporary consumer culture
The aim of this thesis is to identify and understand children's relationships with the world of consumption. Through the children's own narratives a picture emerges of the mediating properties of consumer goods in their wider social and personal friendships. Living in what could be described as a materially divided society this project explores how children make sense of those inequalities and what their experiences are in understanding their own socio-economic position compared to others and how it impacts on their relationships to consumer culture. A particular concern is that such relationships may be more complicated than they seem on the surface and that class has an especially significant impact on children's experience of consumption. The contention here is that the impact of material inequality on an individual's capacity to consume is in the context of the sociology of both consumption and childhood remains largely under-explored. Creative child-centred data collection methods were therefore used in order to prioritise children's 'voices' as a means of understanding the impact of consumption on their lives. This data was further complemented by interviews with parents and in this context parents' management of familial household budgets emerged as having a particularly important influence in determining the role of consumption as a resource in the dynamic that exists between children, their parents and friendship groups. The evidence collected here suggests that the role of consumer goods is central to children's participation in what passes for a 'non-nal' life in contemporary consumer society. Both the children and their parents are acutely aware of this and as such go to inordinate lengths to ensure their children are able to have the appropriate signifiers of inclusion in their peer group networks. Material possessions appear to provide a currency with which children trade, whilst offering them inclusion within their wider personal and social networks. This research has given 'consuming children' a forum within which they can articulate what role consumer goods occupy in their lives on a day-to-day basis and what it means to children if they are unable to participate fully in the society in which they live.