Friends of the Behavioral Economics Blog, this week we present the paper “Revealing differences in brand loyalty and brand engagement of single or no parented young adults”, by Morkunas, M. (2022), in which the author carries out an investigation to know whether adverse circumstances such as parental divorce or a context of orphanhood would affect the consumer behavior of adolescents and young adults.

Central and Eastern European countries are characterized by a high number of divorces. This is a circumstance that places children in an insecure social position, which is amplified by numerous factors, such as possible financial fragility, intolerance or bullying in schools. 

On the other hand, the number of children raised in single-parent families, or even by relatives, increased significantly in some countries in this part of Europe after joining the European Union. 

It has been shown that the prolonged absence of at least one parent has a significant impact on the socio-psychological development of the child at various levels. For example, the situation affects the maturation of their character, their cognitive abilities, and even the economic rationality of their actions.

However, although there are indications to think that people who have grown up in families with these circumstances may have different behaviors than people with typical situations, no substantial scientific efforts have been made to reveal the impact of orphanhood, single parenthood, or divorce on consumer behavior. Therefore, this article aims to help reduce that gap in the literature.

In general, it is considered that the longer a person lives, the more he/she adjusts to the environment around him/her, and forms his/her habits according to the existing social norms and rules, showing a behavior of social conformity. Then, in order to better understand the effect of the lack of a parent during childhood on consumer behavior, the scope of the study focused on young adolescents, who have been exposed to this phenomenon of social conformity for some time.

It is important to know three concepts: brand engagement (BE), brand loyalty (BL), and brand evangelist, which could be understood as a person who feels devotion to the brand and communicates it to the world. 

In general, it is assumed that brand engagement (BE) is directly related to brand loyalty (BL), the latter being considered more complex. However, there are many experts who consider BE to be the more important of the two concepts. When studying brand satisfaction, it seems that identification with the brand through value congruence is one of the most important points that most affects BE and BL.

On the other hand, other experts consider that brand-based consumer interactions are also a highly relevant antecedent for these two concepts. 

BL is typically seen as one of the most important parts of brand evangelism, although other experts point to brand satisfaction and experience as the most relevant components. 

It is important to briefly understand these data to better interpret the results of the study, which can be viewed in detail in the original article. 

The data needed for the study were collected in two processes. First, a control group was recruited through an online questionnaire shared through social networks. On the other hand, data for the study group were obtained through social support divisions of five Lithuanian municipalities and other organizations in the area that provide social support to people with complicated social situations. 

In total, 341 people were surveyed for the control group and 224 for the study group. 

The results showed that there appeared to be statistically significant differences between the two groups. 

Adolescents who experienced a childhood in a single-parent family, in an orphaned situation or, in general, with the absence of one or both parents, are more prone to emotional connectivity with their favorite brands. This should lead to higher satisfaction or higher perceived quality of these brands, as high emotional connectivity is considered an indicator of both. 

On the other hand, although they show some emotional attachment to the brand, they are rarely inclined to spread their positive opinion about it, which is interesting, because if the person loves the brand, he or she is more willing to speak positively about it, even if only moderately. 

The author believes that these findings can be considered relevant not only for Central and Eastern Europe, but for all countries where labor migration is an important issue, with a considerable social, economic and cultural footprint and high divorce rates. Furthermore, he urges other experts to continue to study the subject in order to draw even more solid conclusions.

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