Unit – 3: Social and Cultural factors affecting consumer behaviour
Social-Cultural Factors affecting Consumer behaviour
Social Factors: The second major groups of factors that influence consumer decision making are social factors, which include all effects on the buying behaviour that result from interactions between a consumer and the external environment. The social factors such as reference groups, family, and social status affect the buying behaviour as follows:
A. Reference Groups: A reference group is a small group of people such as colleagues at work place, club members, friends circle, neighbours, family members, and so on. Reference groups influence its members as follows:
Ø They influence members’ values and attitudes.
Ø They expose members to new behaviours and lifestyles.
Ø They create pressure to choose certain products or brands.
B. Family: The family is the main reference group that may influence the consumer behaviour. Nowadays, children are well informed about goods and services through media or friend circles, and other sources. Therefore, they influence considerably in buying decisions both FMCG products and durables.
C. Friends: Friends may influence in two major ways. First they make a recommendation. As they are friends, we are more likely to trust their judgement than that of an acquaintance, or indeed a total stranger. Second, friends may buy us a gift.
D. Relatives: The level of influence may depend upon the closeness of the family in emotional terms, and its ethnicity. Families of Indian or West Indian origin, for example, tend to be more close-knit. If someone is planning to buy a car, that person may seek the opinion or guidance of a friend or relative who is thought to know about cars.
E. Social Status: Status is how we measure our position in society relative to other people, and status symbol is the products that we use as benchmarks in this comparison. A person who owns a luxury car has more status than a person who owns a mid size car and a person who owns a mid size car has more status than a person who owns a small car. People choose products that communicate their role and status in society.
Cultural Factors: Culture includes race and religion, tradition, caste, moral values, etc. Culture also include subcultures such sub-caste, language, religious sects etc and Social class:
A. Culture: It influences consumer behaviour to a great extent. Cultural values and elements are passed from one generation to another through family, educational institutions, religious bodies, social environment, etc. Cultural diversity influences food habits, clothing, customs and traditions, etc. For instance, consuming alcohol and meat in certain religious communities is not restricted, but in certain communities, consumption of alcohol and meat is prohibited.
B. Sub-Culture: Each culture consists of smaller sub-cultures that provide specific identity to its members. Subcultures include sub-caste, religious sects (Roman Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Protestant Christians, etc), geographic regions (South Indians, North Indians), language (Marathi, Malayali, Tamilian, Guajarati) etc. The behaviour of people belong to various sub-cultures is different. Therefore, marketers may adopt multicultural marketing approach, i.e., designing and marketing goods and services that cater to the tastes and preferences of consumers belonging to different sub-cultures.
C. Social class: Consumer behaviour is determined by the social class to which they belong. The classification of socioeconomic groups is known as Socio-Economic Classification (SEC). Social class is relatively a permanent and ordered division in a society whose members share similar value, interest and behaviour. Social class is not determined by a single factor, such as income but it is measured as a combination of various factors, such as income, occupation, education, authority, power, property, ownership, life styles, consumption, pattern etc.
Cultural Influences on consumer
Culture is the most fundamental determinant of a person’s want and behaviour. The growing child acquires a set of values, perception preferences and behaviours through his or her family and other key institutions. Culture influences considerably the pattern of consumption and the pattern of decision-making. Marketers have to explore the cultural forces and have to frame marketing strategies for each category of culture separately to push up the sales of their products or services. But culture is not permanent and changes gradually and such changes are progressively assimilated within society.
Culture is a set of beliefs and values that are shared by most people within a group. The groupings considered under culture are usually relatively large, but at least in theory a culture can be shared by a few people. Culture is passed on from one group member to another, and in particular is usually passed down from one generation to the next; it is learned, and is therefore both subjective and arbitrary.
It influences consumer behaviour to a great extent. Cultural values and elements are passed from one generation to another through family, educational institutions, religious bodies, social environment, etc. Cultural diversity influences food habits, clothing, customs and traditions, etc. For instance, consuming alcohol and meat in certain religious communities is not restricted, but in certain communities, consumption of alcohol and meat is prohibited.
The nature of cultural influences is such that we are seldom aware of them. One feels, behaves, and thinks like the other members of the same culture. It is all pervasive and is present everywhere. Material culture influences technology and how it brings cultural changes like use of telephones, mobile phones, clothing styles and fashions, gives the marketers a chance to improve the product, packing, etc. to meet the needs of the customers. Norms are the boundaries that culture sets on the behaviour. Norms are derived from cultural values, which are widely told beliefs that specify what is desirable and what is not. Most individuals obey norms because it is natural to obey them.
Culture outlines many business norms, family norms, behaviour norms, etc. How we greet people, how close one should stand to others while conducting business, the dress we wear and any other patterns of behaviour. Culture keeps changing slowly over time; and is not static. Changes take place due to rapid technologies. In case of emergency, war, or natural calamities, marketers and managers must understand the existing culture as well as the changing culture and culture of the country where the goods are to be marketed. Major companies have adapted themselves to international culture and are accepted globally. Coca Cola is sold all over the world. Procter & Gamble and other companies give cross-cultural training to their employees. By making cross-cultural mistakes, many companies have difficulty in pushing their products for example; (i) Coca Cola had to withdraw its 2 litres bottle from Spain, because it did not fit in the local refrigerator; (ii) Many countries are very traditional and do not like women displayed on the products. This acts as a detriment to business in those countries.
Impact of Sub-culture on consumer behaviour
Each culture consists of smaller sub-cultures that provide specific identity to its members. Subcultures include sub-caste, religious sects (Roman Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Protestant Christians, etc), geographic regions (South Indians, North Indians), language (Marathi, Malayali, Tamilian, Guajarati) etc. The behaviour of people belong to various sub-cultures is different. Therefore, marketers may adopt multicultural marketing approach, i.e., designing and marketing goods and services that cater to the tastes and preferences of consumers belonging to different sub-cultures.
Sub-culture categories are (Different basis for division of sub-cultural):
Ø Nationality: Indian, Srilanka, Pakistan
Ø Geographic regions: South India, North-eastern India
Ø Religion: Hinduism, Islam
Ø Race: Asian, black, white
Ø Age: young, middle aged, elderly
Ø Sex: Male, Female
Ø Occupation: Farmer, teacher, business
Ø Social class: upper, middle, lower
1. Regional, Ethnic, and Religious Influences on Consumer Behaviour: The three major aspects of culture that have important effects on consumer behaviour are regional, ethnic, and religious differences.
Firstly, consumption patterns may differ in various regions of India and the world, and marketing strategy can sometimes be tailored specifically to these regions.
Secondly, our country has a number of different ethnic groups, and population trends will dramatically alter the demographic profile of the country in the next 50 years. The very diverse Asian American subculture is described as young and having higher socioeconomic status, placing strong value on the family and the group, and being strongly brand loyal. In spite of its diversity, marketing strategies can be developed for this group.
Finally, religious beliefs and values can influence consumer. Many marketers are now becoming multicultural in their marketing activities by trying to appeal to a variety of cultures at the same time. Although the diversity of the Indian melting pot may be unique, there are many important ethnic groups in other areas of the world.
2. Age, Gender, and Household Influences on Consumer Behaviour: Among the four major age groups, Teens, who need to establish an identity, are the consumers of tomorrow and have an increasing influence on family decisions. The somewhat disillusioned Generation consists of smart and cynical consumers who can easily see through obvious marketing attempts. Baby boomers grew up in a very dynamic and fast-changing world, and this has affected their values for individualism and freedom. The 50 and older segment can be divided into two groups-the young again and the gray market. Neither group likes to be thought of as old. The affect of gender differences on consumer behaviour is examined next.
Sex roles are changing. Women are becoming more professional and independent, and men are becoming more sensitive and caring. Also, men and women can differ in terms of traits, information processing, decision styles, and consumption patterns. Gender is consistent throughout lifetime, influencing customer values and preferences. Gender shows different consumption patterns and perceptions of consumption situations –E.g. the wedding ceremony.
Households play a key role in consumer behaviour. Households also exert an important influence on acquisition and consumption patterns. First, household members can play different roles in the decision process (gatekeeper, influencer, decider, buyer, and user). Second, husbands and wives vary in their influence in the decision process, depending on the situation husband- dominant, wifedominant, autonomic, or synchronic.
3. Psychographics: Values, Personality, and Lifestyles: The roles of psychographics in affecting consumer behaviour are detailed below.
Values are enduring beliefs about things that are important. They are learned through the processes of socialization and acculturation. Our values exist in an organized value system, with some values being viewed as more important than others. Some are regarded as terminal values and reflect desired end states that guide behaviour across many different situations. Instrumental values are those needed to achieve these desired end states. Domain specific values are those that are relevant within a given sphere of activity. Western cultures tend to place a relatively high value on material goods, youth, the home, family and children, work and play, health, hedonism, and technology. Marketers use tools like value segmentation to identify consumer groups with common values.
Personality consists of the distinctive patterns of behaviours, tendencies, qualities, and personal dispositions that make people different from one another.
Marketers also measure lifestyles, which are patterns of behaviour (or activities, interests, and opinions). These lifestyles can provide some additional insight into consumers’ consumption patterns.
Finally, some marketing researchers use Psychographic techniques that involve all of these factors to predict consumer behaviour. One of the most well known Psychographic tools is the Values and Lifestyle Survey (VALS). The newer VALS2 identifies eight segments of consumers who are similar in their resources and self-orientations.
Consumer behaviour is determined by the social class to which they belong. The classification of socioeconomic groups is known as Socio-Economic Classification (SEC). Social class is relatively a permanent and ordered division in a society whose members share similar value, interest and behaviour. Social class is not determined by a single factor, such as income but it is measured as a combination of various factors, such as income, occupation, education, authority, power, property, ownership, life styles, consumption, pattern etc.
Characteristics of Social Classes:
a) Persons within a given social class tend to behave more alike
b) Social class is hierarchical
c) Social class is not measured by a single variable but is measured as a weighted unction of one’s occupation, income, wealth, education, status, prestige, etc.
d) Social class is continuous rather than concrete, with individuals able to move into a higher social class or drop into a lower class.
There are three different social classes in our society. They are upper class, middle class and lower class. These three social classes differ in their buying behaviour. Upper class consumers want high-class goods to maintain their status in the society. Middle class consumers purchase carefully and collect information to compare different producers in the same line and lower class consumers buy on impulse.
Factors showing social class differences
1. Lower level: Lower level occupation with no authority, less income, and no education or minimum education. For example, labour class or clerks etc.
2. Middle class: Graduates, or postgraduates executives’ managers of companies with authority, drawing handsome salary of which certain amount can be saved and invested. For example, executives or middle level managers of companies.
3. Higher class: Authoritative person, drawing handsome salary, very often professionally qualified, working in a very senior position or a person born into a rich family, with a good background of education.
Again there could be education considerations. A rich but not so educated people will not normally buy a computer. We should consider another factor of social mobility where a person gets up in the social ladder (for example, poor can become middle class and middle class become rich or the children of uneducated family can attain higher education) or down in the social ladder (for example, rich can become poor or the children of a highly educated family may not continue study).
Therefore marketing managers are required to study carefully the relationship between social classes and their consumption pattern and take appropriate measures to appeal to the people of those social classes for whom their products are meant. Higher positions imply higher status. We can say that Social class is more of a continuum, i.e., a range of social positions, on which each member of society can be place. But, marketing managers have divided this continuum into a small number of specific classes. Thus, we go by this framework, social class is used to assign individuals or families to a social-class category. We can now define social class as the division of members of a society into a hierarchy of distinct status classes, so that members of each class have relatively the same status and the members of all other classes have either more or less status.
Summary of Impact of social class on consumer behaviour
a) Provides a sense of identity
b) Imposes a set of ‘normative’ behaviours
c) Classes share values, possessions, customs and activities
d) Marketing response to customers of different economic means
e) Marketing to the low-income consumer
f) Some marketers ambivalent as not perceived as long-term customers constitutes a substantial group
g) Target with value-oriented strategies.
Opinion Leadership and Consumer Behaviour
Opinion Leadership is the process by which one person (opinion leader) informally influences the actions or attitudes of others, who may be opinion seekers or merely opinion recipients. The definition of opinion leadership emphasises on informal influence. This informal flow of opinion related influence between two or more people is referred to word -of- mouth communication.
There are three situations in which opinion leadership takes place:
1) When an individual actively seeks advice from others
2) When an individual voluntarily provides information to others
3) When information is generated in the course of normal interaction of a group
Dynamics of Opinion Leadership
1. Credibility: Opinion seekers regard opinion leaders as trustworthy and a credible source of information pertaining to a particular product or brand – the opinion leaders have no hidden commercial motives, like cash rewards, in promoting a brand. Also opinion seekers seek their help in decision making because they have expertise or usage experience with a product or brand, which considerably reduces the perceived risk of the opinion seeker. The information given by the opinion leader can be either positive or negative, based on personal experience, and this further strengthens their credibility.
2. Information and Advice: Opinion leaders are a source for product or brand specific information as well as advice. They might just share casual information about a certain product that they have used, they might even aggressively advice o0pinion seekers whether to buy it or not. The information passed can be related to which product or brand to purchase and from where.
3. Category-specific: Opinion leaders can have expertise in one product category, but can reverse the role to opinion seekers in case of another product category in which they are not knowledgeable. A person known for his/her cooking talent may be an expert in the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of packed edible food products, spices, food nutrition, etc, but when he or she has to buy a bike, is more likely to seek information from another person whom he/she regards as knowledgeable about bikes. Therefore, an opinion leader in one product may be an opinion seeker in another product.
4. Two-way communication: Opinion leadership phenomena are face-to-face communication between opinion givers and opinion seekers. Both parties communicate with their respective experience with each other. Some scholars, thus, believe that the difference between opinion giver and opinion seekers is somewhat artificial as the person who is knowledgeable about a certain product and gives related advice to opinion seekers, is also most likely to listen to others’ comments regarding the product.
5. Specific Characteristics: Opinion leaders possess distinct personality traits. These include self confidence and gregariousness. They are socially inclined, outspoken and are knowledgeable.
Types of Opinion Leaders
Opinion leaders, in general, are people who have expertise in one subject/product. Activity and have the capability of influencing others. They may or may not be he users of the product and/or brand that they recommend to others. Opinion leaders can be of varying types based on their knowledge, and influence on the purchase decision of the opinion receiver and/or opinion seeker. There are some special types of opinion leaders, like generalised opinion leaders, market mavens, surrogate buyers and purchase pals:
1. Generalised Opinion Leader: Generalised Opinion Leaders are masters of various subjects (say, all kinds of consumer durable products, books, etc.) and are very hard to find. Usually, opinion leaders are knowledgeable about one product category and have high involvement in some related areas.
2. Market Maven: Market mavens belong to a special category of opinion leaders who have market involvement, rather than product involvement of the normal opinion leaders. They are people who actively seek market information which they feel may be useful from friends and relatives and are a great source of information like – which place offers the best deals, where there are discounts at that time of the year, what new products/brands are in the market, which outlets to visit for which product, the new outlet in town, etc.
3. Surrogate buyer: Surrogate buyer is the term used for the professionals hired by actual purchasers to filet the huge amount of store, product and brand information available, evaluate the product options available and make recommendations. Sometimes, they also make transactions on behalf of their employer. Surrogate buyers play a wide variety of roles like tax consultants, wardrobe consultants, interior designers, stock brokers, etc. The reasons for hiring a surrogate buyer can range from personal reasons like high perceived risk, lack of time, lack of expertise or product knowledge, or low interest in shopping to environmental issue like limited product availability.
4. Purchase pals: Purchase pals are people who accompany an individual on shopping trips. Purchase pals are considered to be quality influential opinion leaders at the point of purchase (in store) in consumer decisions. The major benefit of purchase pals is that they help reduce the stress and anxiety an individual experiences while make a purchase, especially in a high involvement expensive product. The other benefit is information support they provide like better product knowledge, better bargaining skills and better knowledge of outlets, prices and products. Thus the choice of purchase pals depend on the relationship they have with the individual and the type of purchase they make.
A group is two or more persons who share a set of norms and whose relationship makes their behaviour interdependent. A reference group is a group of people with whom an individual associates. It is a group of people who strongly influence a person’s attitudes values and behaviour directly or indirectly. Reference groups fall into many possible grouping, which are not necessarily to be exhaustive (i.e. non over-lapping). The various reference groups are:
1. Membership or contractual groups: They are those groups to which the person belongs, and interacts. These groups have a direct influence on their member’s behaviour.
2. Primary or normative groups: They refer to groups of friends, family members, neighbours co-workers etc whom we see most often. In this case, there is fairly continuous or regular, but informal interaction with cohesiveness and mutual participation, which result in similar beliefs and behaviour within the group.
3. Secondary groups: They include religious groups, professional groups etc, which are composed of people whom we see occasionally. These groups are less influential in shaping attitudes and controlling behaviour but can exert influence on behaviour within the purview of the subject of mutual interest. For example, you can be member of a philately or literary club where you can discuss on mutually interesting subjects.
4. Aspiration group: These are group to which a person would like to join as member. These groups can be very powerful in influencing behaviour because the individual will often adopt the behaviour of the aspirational group in the hopes of being accepted as a member. Sometimes the aspirational groups are better off financially, or will be more powerful; the desire join such groups is usually classed as ambition.
5. Dissociative or avoidance groups: These are groups whose value an individual rejects and the individual does not want to be associated with.
6. Formal groups: These groups have a known list of members, very often recorded somewhere. An example might be a professional association, or a club. Usually the rules and structure of the group are laid down in writing. There are rules for membership and members’ behaviour is constrained while they remain part of the group.
7. Informal groups: These are less structured, and are typically based on friendship. An example would be an individual’s circle of friends, which only exists for mutual moral support, company and sharing experiences. Although there can be even greater pressure to conform than would be the case to a formal group, there is nothing in writing.
8. Automatic groups: These are those groups, to which one belongs by virtue of age, gender, culture or education. These are sometimes also called category groups. Although at first sight it would appear that these groups would not exert much influence on the members’ behaviour, because they are groups, which have not been joined voluntarily, it seems that people are influenced by group pressure to conform. For example, when buying clothes, older people are reluctant to look like a teenager and hence they normally do not buy jeans.
9. Indirect groups: In this case, the customers are not in direct contact with the influencers. For example, a film star like Shah Rukh Khan pitches for Santro car, it obviously has a deep influence over the blind fans.
10. Comparative groups: The members of this group are those with whom you compare yourself. For example, you may compare yourself with your brother or sister (sibling rivalry) or the colleagues and try to emulate by possessing some unique products or brands like Modava watch or Christian Dior perfume.
11. Contractual group: The group with which we are in regular contacts like college friends, office colleagues.
Factors that Affect Reference Groups Influence
The degree of influence that a reference group exerts on an individual’s behavior usually depends on the nature of the individual and the product and on specific social factors. This section discusses how and why some of these factors operate to influence consumer behavior.
1. Information and Experience: An individual who has firsthand experience with a product or service, or can easily obtain full information about it, is less likely to be influenced by the advice or example of others. On the other hand, a person who has little or no firsthand experience with a product or service, and does not expect to have access to objective information about it (e.g., a person who believes that relevant, advertising may be misleading or deceptive), is more likely to seek out the advice or example of others. Research on imitative behavior provides some interesting insights on how insufficient experience or information concerning a product makes consumers more susceptible to the influence either positive or negative, of others.
2. Credibility, Attractiveness, and Power of the Reference Group: A reference group, which is perceived as credible, attractive, or powerful can induce consumer attitude and behavior change. For example, when consumers are concerned with obtaining accurate information about the performance or quality of a product or service, they are likely to be persuaded by those they consider to be trustworthy and knowledgeable. That is, they are more likely to be persuaded by sources with high credibility. When consumers are primarily concerned with the acceptance or approval of others they like, with whom they identify, or who offer them status or other benefits, they are likely to adopt their product, brand, or other behavioral characteristics.
3. Conspicuousness of the Product: The potential influence of a reference group varies according to how visually or verbally conspicuous a product is to others. A visually conspicuous product is one that can be seen and identified by others, and that will stand out and be noticed (e.g., a luxury item or novelty product). Even if a product is not visually conspicuous, it may be verbally conspicuous it may be highly interesting or it may be easily described to others. Products that are especially conspicuous and status-revealing (a new automobile, fashion clothing, home furniture) are most likely to be purchased with an eye to the reactions of relevant others. Products that are less conspicuous (canned fruits, laundry soaps) are less likely to be purchased with a reference group in mind.
4. Reference Group Impact on Product and Brand Choice: In some cases, and for some products, reference groups may influence both a person’s product category and brand (or type) choices. Such products are called pro- duct-plus, brand-plus items. In other cases, reference groups influence only the product category decision. Such products are called product-plus, brand-minus items. In still other cases, reference groups influence the brand (or type) decision. These products are called product-minus, brand-Plus items. Finally, in some cases, reference groups influence neither the product category nor the brand decision; these products are called product-minus, brand-minus items.
5. Reference Groups and Consumer Conformity: Marketers are particularly interested in the ability of reference groups to change consumer attitudes and behavior (i.e., to encourage conformity). To be capable of such influence, a reference group must:
Ø Inform or make the individual aware of a specific product or brand;
Ø Provide the individual with the opportunity to compare his or her own thinking with the attitudes and behavior of the group;
Ø Influence the individual to adopt attitudes and behavior that are consistent with the norms of the group; Legitimize an individual’s decision to use the same products as the group.
Family and its role in consumer behaviour
Meaning: A family is a group of two or more persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption who reside together. The nuclear family is the immediate group of father, mother, and children living together. The extended family is the nuclear family, plus other relatives, such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and parents-in-law. The family into which one is born is called the family of orientation, whereas the one established by marriage is the family of procreation. In a more dynamic sense, the individuals who constitute a family might be described as members of the most basic social group who live together and interact to satisfy their personal and mutual needs.
There are two types of families in the buyer’s life viz. nuclear family and Joint family. Nuclear family is that where the family size is small and individuals have higher liberty to take decisions whereas in joint families, the family size is large and group decision-making gets more preference than individual. Family members can strongly influence the buyer behaviour, particularly in the Indian contest. The tastes, likes, dislikes, life styles etc. of the members are rooted in the family buying behaviour. The family influence on the buying behaviour of a member may be found in two ways:
i) The family influence on the individual personality, characteristics, attitudes and evaluation criteria and
ii) The influence on the decision-making process involved in the purchase of goods and services. In India, the head of the family may alone or jointly with his wife decides the purchase. So marketers should study the role and the relative influence of the husband, wife and children in the purchase of goods and services.
Family life cycle stages and their buying behaviour
Stage of life cycle
Single people like student, unemployed youth or professionals at their age tend to have low earnings, but also have low outgoings so have a high discretionary income. They tend to be more fashion and recreation orientated, spending on clothes, music, alcohol, eating out, holidays, leisure pursuits and hobbies. They may buy cars and items for their first residence away from home.
Newly married couples
Newlyweds without children are usually dual-income households (Double Income No Kids commonly known as DINK) and therefore usually well off. They still tend to spend on similar things to the singles, but also have the highest proportion of expenditure on household goods, consumer durables and appliances. Appear to be more susceptible to advertising.
Full nest I
When the first child arrives, one parent usually stops working outside the home, so family income drops sharply. The baby creates new needs, which alter expenditure patterns: furniture and furnishings for the baby, baby food, vitamins, toys, nappies and baby food. Family savings decline, and couples are usually dissatisfied with their financial position.
Full nest II
The youngest child is over 6, so often both parents will work outside the home. The employed spouse’s income has risen due to career progression, and the family’s total income recovers. Consumption patterns still heavily influenced by children: bicycles, drawing or swimming lessons, large-size packages of breakfast cereals, cleaning products, etc.
Full nest III
Family income improves, as the children get older. Both parents are likely to be working outside the home and both may have had some career progression; also, the children will be earning some of their own money from part-time jobs, etc. Family purchases might be a second car, replacement furniture, some luxury items and children’s education.
Empty nest I
Children have grown up and left home. Couples are at the height of their careers and spending power, have low mortgages, very reduced living costs. Often go for luxury travel, restaurants and theatre, so they need fashionable clothing, jewellery, diets, spas, health clubs, cosmetics or hairdressing.
Empty nest II
Main breadwinner has retired, so some drop in income. Expenditure is more health orientated, buying appliances for sleep, over-the-counter (OTC drugs like Crocin, Disprin, Gellusil) remedies for indigestion. They often buy a smaller house or move to an apartment in suburbs.
If they still are in the workforce, widows and widowers enjoy a good income. They may spend more money on holidays, as well as the items mentioned in empty nest II.
Retired solitary survivor
Same general consumption pattern is evident as above, but on a smaller scale due to reduced income. They have special needs for love, affection and security, so may join local clubs for aged etc.
The family life cycle is a useful rule-of-thumb generalisation, but given the high divorce rate and the somewhat uncertain nature of career paths, it is unlikely that many families would pass through all the stages quite as neatly as the model suggests.